Glasgow center Smith verbally commits to Lady Toppers

Glasgow senior center Shalika Smith verbally committed to Western Kentucky on Tuesday, per GHS coach Justin Stinson.

Smith, a 6-1 center, averaged 14.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game as a junior. She shot 67.9 percent from the field, which ranked first in the state.

“She loves Coach (Michelle Clark-Heard) and feels very comfortable with her,” Stinson said. “Obviously, Western’s program is going in a good direction, and I think that was an incentive. She’s very excited.”

Stinson said the other schools Smith considered were Illinois State, Coastal Carolina, Austin Peay, Norfolk State and Georgetown College.

Smith competed this summer with the Kentucky Junior All-Star team and played her first summer with the AAU program Kentucky Premier.

“She’s a rare combination of size and athleticism,” Stinson said. “She’s very strong, she can score in a variety of ways, she’s very active on the glass and she runs the floor well. I think anytime you can get that combination, that’s something that really translates to the next level.

“She didn’t start playing basketball until she was in seventh grade, so I think her best basketball is still ahead of her. She’s got a very high ceiling.”

WKU has three scholarships available for the 2014 class.

Michelle Clark-Heard discusses Lady Toppers’ 2013-14 nonconference schedule

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team released its 2013-14 nonconference schedule earlier today, and if you missed that blog post, here’s a rundown of the slate.

I talked with coach Michelle Clark-Heard this afternoon about the Lady Tops beefing up nonconference play, including a home game against 2013 national runner-up Louisville and a road contest at Vanderbilt in the second game of the season.

Here are Heard’s thoughts:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

On adding difficulty to the schedule: “Playing in the WNIT last year was great, but our ultimate goal is to get to the NCAA (tournament). As a staff, we thought we had to put ourselves in a position to have the opportunity where if something didn’t work out right, we could still possibly get an at-large bid. … We just want to get mentally prepared for the types of teams we’ll have to start facing.”

You said you needed to schedule wins last year to build the players’ confidence. Where is that confidence this year? “That’s something we’re going to have to build on. This is going to be new territory for us, but I also think we’ve always tried to talk to them about the bigger picture and where we’re trying to go. They’ve been working really hard, and they’re talking about getting prepared for what we need to do.”

On the unexpected Vanderbilt game on the schedule: “It was a contract that had basically been from the previous staff, so it was something we have to finish out. It’s always hard. That’s a very hard place to play at. We have to play them in the second game of the season. It’ll be a tough environment for our kids, but it’ll be a great experience.”

Significance of the Louisville game: “When I was here at Western, we played Louisville. It’s a game that had previously been on the schedule. I had just came from there, and Jeff (Walz) and I have a great relationship. It’s a great chance for our ladies to play against a team that was just in the national championship game. … It’ll be an emotional game for a lot of people. But I think it’ll be a great one.”

Lady Toppers release 2013-14 nonconference schedule

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team released its 2013-14 nonconference schedule this morning.

The Lady Toppers, who finished 22-11 last year under new coach Michelle Clark-Heard, have five home games on the nonconference slate, highlighted by a meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 27 with last year’s national runner-up, Louisville, at E.A. Diddle Arena.

That game will mark the first time since the 1999-00 season that WKU has hosted a team that reached the NCAA tournament’s Final Four in the previous season. Five of the Lady Tops’ 11 nonconference opponents reached the postseason last season.

“We have been able to upgrade our schedule for this season in a way that we think can help prepare us to accomplish many of the goals we have as a program,” Heard said in a news release. “Our schedule served us well in 2012-13, but our players are ready for a new opportunity. We have put together a slate of games for the upcoming season that will challenge us and prepare us for the conference season.”

WKU will also host Austin Peay on Nov. 9 in the season opener, Murray State on Nov. 16, Morehead State on Dec. 1 and Jackson State on Dec. 15.

Those games will follow two home Lady Topper exhibition games – Oct. 29 against Glenville State (W. Va.) and Nov. 3 against Kentucky Wesleyan.

The other highlight of nonconference play is a trip to Vanderbilt on Nov. 11 in the second game of the season.

The Lady Tops’ other true road contests are at Southeast Missouri on Nov. 19, Northern Kentucky on Nov. 23 and Ball State on Dec. 7.

They were originally scheduled to visit Ole Miss this season in the first game of a series required in the buyout of former WKU athletic director Ross Bjork, who’s now in the same position at Ole Miss.

Bjork told the Daily News earlier this month that there were date conflicts on both sides this season, and the plan is to begin that series in 2014-15.

WKU wraps nonconference action with a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for two games Dec. 20-21. The Lady Tops will face Belmont and Georgetown in that event before turning their attention to Sun Belt Conference play.

2013-14 WESTERN KENTUCKY UNIVERSITY LADY TOPPER BASKETBALL SCHEDULE 

Oct. 29   Tues. Glenville State (WV) [Exh.]    E.A. Diddle Arena  Bowling Green, Ky.    7:00 pm

Nov. 3    Sun.Kentucky Wesleyan [Exh.]         E.A. Diddle Arena  Bowling Green, Ky.    2:00 pm

Nov. 9    Sat. Austin Peay                                      E.A. Diddle Arena  Bowling Green, Ky.    2:00 pm

Nov. 11   Mon.at Vanderbilt                                 Memorial Gymnasium    Nashville, Tenn.     Time TBA

Nov. 16    Sat.Murray State                                    E.A. Diddle Arena   Bowling Green, Ky.     2:00 pm

Nov. 19    Tues.at Southeast Missouri                Show Me Center       Cape Girardeau, Mo.     7:00 pm

Nov. 23    Sat..at Northern Kentucky                  Bank of Kentucky Arena    Highland Heights, Ky.     7:00 pm

Nov. 27    Wed.Louisville                                        E.A. Diddle Arena    Bowling Green, Ky.        7:00 pm

Dec. 1       Sun.Morehead State                               E.A. Diddle Arena     Bowling Green, Ky.       2:00 pm

Dec. 7       Sat.at Ball State                                       John E. Worthen Arena      Muncie, Ind.       1:00 pm

Dec. 15     Sun.Jackson State                                  E.A. Diddle Arena      Bowling Green, Ky.      2:00 pm

Dec. 20     Fri.vs. Belmont^                                    Guillermo Angulo Carolina    San Juan, Puerto Rico    11:00 am

Dec. 21     Sat.vs. Georgetown^                              Guillermo Angulo Carolina    San Juan, Puerto Rico     11:00 am

^2013 Puerto Rico Classic

All home games are bold and played at E.A. Diddle Arena.

All times are CST and subject to change.