Apr. 19—Once South Central volleyball standout Halle Smith notified her family that she would be furthering her athletic career at Illinois Wesleyan, nothing was going to stop head women's basketball coach Mia Smith from attending that signing.
Mia is the godmother to Halle and both are closer than you think, despite being separated by 132 miles.
"She means everything to me. We've always hung out and just really bonded," Halle said. "We're like the same person. Everyone in our family says that we're similar, and she means the world to me, and I'm so thankful to have her in my life."
Both will be closer come August, though, and, for Halle, she is looking forward to many things about reuniting fully with Mia.
"If I'm being honest, she's a really good cook, so I'm looking forward to that," Halle joked. "But, also, just being able to bond with her and be close and support each other so that I can help her with the things that she does and she can help me with the things that I do. I know that it's hard to be separated from one another, so we'll be together for the next four years, and I think that'll be great."
Overall, Mia said she is more than grateful that Halle will be in Bloomington for the next four years.
"I love that she's going to go play anything collegiately. I love that she's coming to Illinois Wesleyan, which I think is an incredible school," Mia said. "I've been there for 24 years, so it has a special place in my heart. It's a great academic school with a great athletic success story and just a really good place for her to play. Having her around for the next four years will be cool.
"I try to be non-biased. I knew [Halle] already loved the school, and she'd already seen many different types of programs. She'd watch volleyball, softball, men's and women's basketball, of course, and so I knew that she knew the success of the programs."
Mia has been at Illinois Wesleyan for 24 years, and even though she is farther away, she said that she and Halle talk nearly once a week and after games.
Additionally, Mia said that she keeps up with how Halle is doing through various platforms.
"I watched most of her games on all the Facebook video streams last year, and then through NFHS, I can keep watching her. I can watch through GameChanger when she's playing softball and when I'm out of season; I'm home every chance I can get to watch her and both of the twins play," Mia said. "It's been a lot of joy for our entire family to watch her play."
Unfortunately, Halle suffered an ACL injury during her basketball season, permitting her from completing the year while ending her softball season, too.
After the injury happened, though, Mia said that she and Halle constantly talked about what was next.
"There's a lot of different things that happen with an ACL," Mia said. "The critical point is rehabilitation, and the most important aspect is getting back the range of motion and muscle strength. As soon as she has that, I think she'll be able to pick back right up where she left off, and they say that the knee is always stronger than it was before, so that will be a good sign. I know she's deliberate and dedicated to her rehab, which will help her a lot."
Having a strong support system behind her was also a plus — something that Mia, herself, also never takes for granted.
In 2012, Mia got diagnosed with cancer and, ever since, has grown even closer with her family.
Mia's sister-in-law is Halle's mother, Tammy Smith — a woman that Mia couldn't help but praise, calling her "the sister that I didn't have."
"I have the best sister-in-law in the world, in Tammy Smith. I don't think my brother could have done a better job, that's for sure, and I hope he always knows how blessed he is because our family sure does," Mia said. "They're a great strength for me; they're a great support system. She and I can tell each other anything and everything. It's like having another sister, the sister that I didn't have."
Now, with Halle signing to the Titans, Mia and Tammy will have much more time to spend together to catch up on lost time and certainly create more memories, too.
Contact EDN Sports Editor Alex Wallner at 217-347-7151 ext. 124 or firstname.lastname@example.org.