When it came time for Seattle Storm Head Coach and General Manager Brian Agler to decide whether Katie Smith would return to the Storm for another season as an unrestricted free agent, it didn't take much convincing.
"Our conversation was, 'Do you want to come back and play?' That's been it," Smith said Thursday by phone from Columbus.
The WNBA legend, who is entering her 16th season of professional basketball, did her due diligence but saw nothing to change what convinced her to come to Seattle in a sign-and-trade deal prior to the 2011 season.
Neil Enns/Storm Photos
At 37, Katie Smith feels good physically and is excited to play another season in Seattle.
"I looked at some options," Smith explained . "They obviously made changes and were going through their progression. I had a couple of offers. Last year when I chose Seattle, there were reasons why I chose Seattle - partly so I could finish my career there. I'd like to be a part of that with the fans, the organization, the players, being able to win. Lots of things. "
And while the Storm may not have gone as far in the playoffs as Smith hoped, the rest of the experience lived up to her expectations.
"You go into every season hoping for the best but no one foresaw that Lauren (Jackson) would be hurt for that period of time," said Smith. "It is what it is; that's the nature of the beast. Seattle in general - city, fans, coaches, teammates - everything was wonderful. I really had a great time spending time in the city. I was happy about my time that I had there."
One option that didn't factor into Smith's decision was the possibility of retirement. While she's not sure how much longer she plans to play, Smith knew by the end of last season that she wanted to extend her career at least one more year in the WNBA at age 37 (she'll be 38 in June).
"I felt good," she said. "I still feel like I can basically hold my own. I feel like I can compete on the highest level if I could do it again. I still have a little bit left in the tank - more than a little. I feel really good and I'm excited about the season."
For now, Smith is working out and attending classes at Ohio State University, working toward a masters in dietetics. In the first year of a three-year program, Smith is enjoying the coursework but readjusting to balancing her preparation for the upcoming season, homework and her role working with the Buckeyes women's basketball team.
"It's back to being a student-athlete in a sense," she said. "It keeps me on my toes - lots of work trying to keep my head wrapped around everything."
When she comes back to Seattle, Smith knows she will be part of a Storm roster with a different look after two trades and the addition of Ann Wauters in free agency. She notes that "a lot of good pieces are there" and relishes the opportunity to play alongside Wauters, a long-time opponent, including in the 2008 WNBA Finals when Smith and the Detroit Shock defeated Wauters and the San Antonio Silver Stars.
"I've known Ann playing against her, I've been around her a little bit," Smith said. "I don't know her that well - just on the court, as talented as she is. She's been doing this a long time and been very good at it. She's adding a lot of size. I'm looking forward to playing with her. The time I have spent with her, she's a sweetheart - really easy to get along with, enjoyable and a heck of a basketball player."
Changes or no, Smith points out that every season is different. So she'll approach 2012 with her usual philosophy.
"Every team and every season, even when you're on the same team," she explained, "you can't go into it saying 'This is how it's going to go again.' Even with the same people or just the addition of one, it's always different - how a team's going to guard you. Everything changes. You understand how it's going to be - you understand the players, you understand the coaching staff, the philosophy - but you also have to go into the season with an open mind of how is this going to play out. Go in there, be ready, go play basketball, play hard."