Smalls leaves legacy with JMU women's basketball

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HARRISONBURG, Va. -- Kamiah Smalls' love of basketball started when she was a young girl growing up in eastern Pennsylvania.

Kamiah Smalls' love of basketball started when she was a young girl growing up in eastern Pennsylvania.

"There was a basketball court around the corner from my house that I just couldn't stay away from," said Smalls.

She grew up in Philadelphia, a city known for producing talented basketball players. Smalls attended and played prep basketball at powerhouse Neumann Goretti High School. It was during her high school years that Smalls was noticed by JMU, especially Sean O'Regan who was then serving as an assistant coach.

"I was at an AAU tournament and I specifically remember Coach O sitting in the stands by my court and I was going off this game," said Smalls. "Just laying it all on the line."

O'Regan said: "It was a very, very intense (recruiting period). This was like we are going hard for a month and a half."

O'Regan convinced Smalls to take an official visit to JMU. She committed to the Dukes and head coach Kenny Brooks. However, before she made it to campus as a freshman, Brooks was on his way to Virginia Tech to be head coach of the Hokies. O'Regan would be hired as head coach at JMU but before it became official, he made sure to keep Smalls with the Dukes.

"In no particular order...I called her first and she said if you get the job, I'll stay and that meant a lot to me," said O'Regan.

Smalls' decision to join JMU was a good one. She developed into a superstar during her four years in Harrsionburg. Smalls was named CAA Player of the Year in 2019-2020 and finished her career as JMU's fourth all-time leading scorer with 1,888 points.

"Where I come from, I was kind of like that background star for a long time," said Smalls. "I waited patiently for my time to come and when my opportunity came, I just jumped on it."

However, Smalls never played in the NCAA Tournament during her time at JMU. The Dukes were knocked out of the CAA Tournament by Elon when she was a freshman and sophomore. Smalls was injured when the Dukes suffered a CAA Quarterfinal loss to Hofstra last season and this past season was canceled early due to COVID-19 just as it seemed like JMU was about to make a deep postseason run.

Despite falling short of the NCAA Tournament during her time with JMU, Smalls will still go down as one of the best players in program history.

"For me to be considered one of the best in a program's history, whether it be here or anywhere else, it's very special to me," said Smalls. "It's something that I hold very dearly."