A tale of two seniors

AUWBB winningest senior class on their final journey



Smith (left) and Dackin (right) pose for a photo before team pictures.

Bree Gannon

“They have been able to lead this team by their actions. They are two of our hardest workers,
they are steady, consistent and I think that is an incredibly important quality in a leader.”

Ashland University women’s basketball head coach Kari Pickens stated the above after being
asked about two of her team’s leaders. The two leaders who are able to bring positivity,
determination, hard work and laughter to the team, community and campus.

As the only two seniors on the team both Maddie Dackin and Brooke Smith are preparing to
leave their mark on an organization they have grown in for the last four years.

Before their time in the purple and gold, both of their journeys started when they first picked up a
basketball in the first grade.

“I started playing in first grade because my sisters were playing on a travel team and I thought
they were so cool,” Dackin said. “I was on that team and got a few minutes at the end and that is
when I started to love basketball.”

For Smith, her love of the game stemmed from a long line of basketball players who came
before her such as her siblings, dad and grandpa.

“I started playing in first grade and my family was a big basketball family so I was always in the
gym,” Smith said. “My dad was a basketball coach for a men’s team and now he is with the
women’s and my grandpa was a basketball coach, so we were always in the gym shooting. I
just picked up the interest because my older sister played.”

During high school, Dackin averaged 16.8 points and eight rebounds per game. She helped
lead her team to four sectional titles, four district championships and a regional crown.

As a Wildkitten, Dackin earned first-team All-Western Buckeye League, first-team-all-district,
first-team All-Northwest Ohio and third-team All-Ohio honors. She was also the WBL and District
8 Player of the Year and reached 1,000 points.

For Dackin, going to the next level for basketball was always the goal.

“It was always a goal I had, growing up, was to make it to the college level and playing AAU
[basketball], that dream became realistic so that’s why I chose to do it,” Dackin said.

Ashland helped make that dream a reality for Dackin and the one thing that stood out to her
about the small town and university, was the community feel.

“I think for me, you go on a bunch of college visits and you see a lot of different campuses and
they all started to look the same until I came to Ashland,” Dackin said. “It was more about the
people you meet here and the community feel it had here, you can feel that as soon as you step
on the campus. That was what made Ashland stand out a lot more than the other colleges.”

The transition to college athletics gave Dackin an insight to the level of basketball that the
women’s team plays at. She said that the thing that changed the most for her was figuring out
what she was best at with being in a different setting and in a different role than she was used

“I think developing and finding who you are as a player changes you in college because it looks
different,” Dackin said. “You’re in a different role and I think putting in the work and continuing to
figure out what you’re best at, was what has changed the most for me.”

During her freshman year, Dackin averaged 3.4 points per game, shot 39.4 percent from the
field, shot 39.2 percent from 3-point range and was aggressive at the free throw line with a 74.1
percent average.

She also posted 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio in 9.8 minutes per game. Even though she was a
key player for the Eagles coming off the bench, Dackin was unable to crack the starting line-up
but she got the chance to learn from Kelsey Peare and Alex Henning.

The 2016-2017 season brought improvements from the Lima, Ohio native who finished the
season second in scoring among players coming off the bench.

Dackin averaged 8.4 points in 16.8 minutes per game and was second on the team with 42
3-point field goals and shot 43.8 percent from behind the arc. She was an 80.2 percent
free-throw shooter and earned GLIAC All-Academic Excellence honors.

Dackin prepares to shoot a free throw during a contest against Northwood.

The Eagles went on to have a perfect undefeated season for the first time in program history
and won their second National Championship title under then head coach Robyn Fralick.

During that game against Virginia Union, Dackin was one of five players to score in double
figures. She posted 14 points and was a perfect 8-8 on free throws made in 20 minutes of play.

Junior year brought a step into the starting lineup for the first time and ended with Dackin having
her best collegiate season to date. She made a program record with her 88.7 percent free throw

She also averaged 10.9 points, 2.1 steals and 2.2 rebounds per game and was named
second-team All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, All-GLIAC defensive team and
GLIAC All-Academic honors.

That year, the team set the Division II record with 72 straight wins after ending their season 36-1
overall before losing to Central Missouri in the National Championship game. The loss was their
first since March 12, 2016 when the Eagles played Drury in the NCAA Division II Midwest
Regional Semifinals.

In the game against Central Missouri, Dackin added six points and was 2-2 on free throws

After the 2017-2018 season ended, coach Fralick announced that she was taking on the head
coaching position at Bowling Green State University and that then assistant coach Kari Pickens,
would be taking over the reigns.

The transition of coaches for the team was easy and for Dackin and Smith, they were grateful
that coach Pickens had been in the program.

“I’m thankful that coach P was already in the program, she took over and she does a really good
job of continuing to do similar types of things that coach Fralick did,” Dackin said. “I mean she is
a completely different coach and she has her own coaching styles but they both have the same
values, they both keep our team held to a standard at the same time so in that aspect, nothing
has really changed, knowing what we’re expecting and what’s expected of us.”

Smith also added that not a lot has changed since coach Pickens took over the role and she has
made it fun so far.

While the 2018-2019 is just beginning to hit tournament time, Dackin currently sits at 12.1
points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.6 assist per game. She also averages 79.5 percent from the free
throw line and is 40.4 percent from 3-point range.

Pickens highlights Dackin as a “phenomenal defender” during her time at Ashland.

“Maddie, on the court, her 3-point shooting has been incredible, she is one of the top 3-point
shooters in program history and in field goal percentage, same thing. She has been able to draw
fouls and she has been a phenomenal defender for us and off the court,” Pickens said. “She has
an incredible work ethic and it’s shown all four years and the last two she has really stepped into
a leadership role and challenged our girls and powered our girls and has really gotten the best
out of our players.”

While Dackin still has some games left under her belt, she still has some things she wants to
work on before she walks across the stage at graduation in May.

“I want to continue to build into our younger girls what this program and culture is all about
because when we leave, there are going to be new girls coming in and every year we want that
culture to be the same,” Dackin said. “We take care of each other and we have core values that
we follow. If we can do a good job of leading that and distilling that into our young girls then they
will continue to keep that legacy going.”

During high school, Smith was named the Muskingum Valley League Player of the Year, District
12 Player of the Year and Division II second-team All-Ohio. She averaged 12.1 points, 4.0 assist
and 2.1 rebounds per game.

While in the blue and gold, Smith helped her team to three MVL championships and two
regional-runner up seasons.

Just like Dackin, Smith’s ultimate goal was to play at the collegiate level.

“It was a goal playing AAU, my parents spent all that money and I knew going in when I was
playing AAU that that was my ultimate goal was to play college basketball,” Smith said. “I just
think that working hard is what got me here and then Ashland showed an interest.”

Ashland was one of many places that showed an interest in Smith, who also had colleges such
as Division I Raford University and West Liberty pursuing her. In the end, it was the family
oriented team that won her over.

“Ashland was more of a family oriented team and they were a winning program and I loved the
campus when I came and visited,” Smith said. “Everybody was so welcoming and nice. The
community is so involved and that is awesome. Every home game we have, and some away
games, feels like a tournament game because the crowd we get. My grandpa also went here so
that made me more interested in it.”

For Smith, it was her mental game that changed the most during her transition from high school
ball to college level ball.

“We come from programs where we were probably one of the only ones that could go play
college basketball so when we got here, obviously everybody is better, at the same level, if not
higher,” Smith said. “I think learning from each other really helped me I think. My mental game
and my mental aspect increased and I think I have grown overall as a basketball player.”

During her freshman year, Smith saw 9.5 minutes per game and averaged 2.1 points coming off
the bench in the backup point guard position.

Her highest scored game of that season came on March 6, 2016 during the GLIAC Tournament
Championship game against Grand Valley State. Smith scored nine points and was a perfect
3-3 behind the arc.

During the 2016-2017 season, Smith played in 29 games and averaged 2.0 points and 6.1
minutes per game. She finished the season sixth on the team with 18 3-point field goals and
was shooting 41.9 percent from behind the arc.

Just like Dackin, Smith also saw playing time during the 2017 National Championship game.
She played for a minute of the game and sunk a 3-pointer before exiting.

Smith’s junior year saw her most extensive playing time while at AU. She became a 3-point
specialist and shot 34.8 percent from 3-point range. She also averaged 6.1 points per game and
had 54 steals.

Smith was named the Donley Ford Player of the Game after the Eagles defeated Wayne State
on Dec. 7, 2017 by a final score of 120-70. Smith set a new single game high after posting 18
points and six 3-point field goals.

With the GLIAC tournament about to begin, Smith is averaging 6.3 points and 1.5 rebounds per
game. She also has a 42.4 field goal percent, is 42.1 percent from 3-point range and is 62.5
percent from the charity stripe.

Smith started seeing more consistent playing time off the bench and even landed in the starting
line up at the start of the season in 2018. But, after the new year, those in attendance at home
games started noticing the lack of Smith’s presence in the lineup. Sophomore Karlee Pireu
replaced Smith in the starting lineup and Smith started to become a threat off the bench for the

“Brooke has been such a spark for us, she comes in and immediately elevates our defensive
energy, she is a 3 point threat that people need to be aware of coming off the bench right away,”
Pickens said. “She has been phenomenal in both roles but it is a testament to her and she has
been a great teammate through the transition and has still provided so much to the team.”

Smith’s ability to defend the ball starting at half court, along with her ability to be able to shoot
3-pointers, is something that coach Pickens says is phenomenal.

“She has always put the team first. Brooke has been a phenomenal teammate. In regards to
3-point shooting, she is one of the best 3-point shooters to come through our program,” Pickens
said. “She has a phenomenal 3-point percentage and I personally think she is one of the best
on-ball defenders that we have ever had here and what she brings is really unique and special.”

Coach Pickens also said that along with her hard work, Smith always has a positive attitude
during practice.

“Brooke has been such a steady, consistent force for us. She has brought hard work everyday,
she has brought a consistent attitude and I always know what I am going to get out of Brooke at
every practice,” Pickens said.” I never wonder if she is going to be moody or anything, she is
going to come in, she’s going to compete and she’s going to do it with a great attitude and I
have really appreciated that about her.”
Before the buzzer goes off marking the end of her college career, Smith wants to continue
working on building friendships on the team and make an impact on the community and those.

Both Dackin and Smith, know what they want to do before their time is done but when it comes
to their goals for the rest of the season, are simple and clear, make it as far as we can.

“Every game is game by game, you want to win the next game and never overlook anybody
because we play in a really good league,” Dackin said. “Our end goals are to win the GLIAC
championship tournament, go as far as we can into tournaments and hopefully win a national

“We don’t our season to end, we want to make it as far as we can, ultimately winning a national
championship game, we want to get there and win it.” Smith added

After making it to the National Championship game the last two years, one would think there is
pressure for Dackin, Smith and the rest of team to be successful but they do not see it that way.

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it pressure, but I do think there is a standard that we are held too
which I don’t see it as a bad thing. It allows our culture and program to know that we are
expected to work hard and we are expected to continue to grow as a team and together,” Dackin
said. “I think if you use it in the right way and you use it for a positive aspect in your team, then it
can be a motivation.”

Smith also said that they recognize that they have gone to the game for the last two seasons but
it is reason to get there again if they play as a team.

“I don’t think there’s pressure, I mean yeah we know that we won a National Championship
game and we know that we got there last year but I just think like as long as we work hard and
we play together we can get there again,” Smith said. “We don’t worry about what others are
thinking, we just do our thing out there.”

With 66 days until AU’s Spring Commencement, coach Pickens said she is going to miss key
things about both players but she has enjoyed watching them for the past four years.

“I’ve loved Brooke’s one liners, she is absolutely hilarious and sweet. On the court I love her
defense, I think she is the best on- ball-defender that has come through this program and were
going to miss that a lot next year,” Pickens said. “For Maddie, I have loved her work ethic, I have
gotten more shots up with that girl probably than anyone and shes not even a post. She is
always asking to get more shots up and I think it has really set a standard at Ashland what hard
work looks like and how it can pay off and were going to miss both of them so much.”

As best friends on and off the court, roommates and teammates, Dackin and Smith are also
classmates who are both studying exercise science.

Dackin’s plans for post graduation life are to go to physician assistant school.

“My ultimate goal is to go to physician assistant school, so a little more schooling for me. My
goal would be to be a pediatric physician assistant,” Dackin said.

Smith also has plans to further her education after graduation as well.

“I want to do OTA [occupational therapist assistant] so I have to go to school after this too but I
would like to work in an outpatient clinic or something along those lines,” Smith said.

With being the only two seniors on the team that are graduating this year, both Dackin and
Smith were able to step into leadership roles and help guide their team. After they’re gone, they
want the legacy they were taught to live on for years to come. Their advice on doing that? Do
not take the time for granted and take advantage of everything you can.

“Don’t take the time of having basketball in your life or the girls around you for granted because
it does go by really fast. I still can’t believe we have one home game left,” Smith said. “Yeah, we
could have the possibly have all those tournament games left but just don’t take that time for
granted and really take advantage of the opportunities that Ashland gives you.”

“Take advantage of the opportunities and really build a home here because the community and
the people here at Ashland really want to help you and give you the opportunities for post grad
and to take advantage of those would be nice,” Dackin said.

Coach Pickens advice, for her first graduating class as head coach, is simple.

“My advice would be to always look for the best in others and in situations. Whatever they are
doing, continue to work hard, have fun and keep God at the center of their life,” Pickens said.