Phoenix Mercury's Alanna Smith is back on the court

The second-year player is happy to return to the game she loves

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Alanna Smith. (NBA Media Central photo)

Her short professional career hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing. The Phoenix Mercury’s Alanna Smith is entering her third professional season since being drafted out of Stanford in 2019. Like the other two, it will be a shortened one for reasons beyond her control. But she’s finally healthy and ready to play her role as part of the team’s youth contingent.

When the Mercury set their roster for the 2020 season, they cut all of their 2020 draft picks and camp invitees. At the time, general manager Jim Pitman and head coach Sandy Brondello said that they were able to do that because they had so much faith in their trio from the 2019 draft.

“I know that they believe in me,” Smith said. “I know that they have that confidence in me and Bri (Turner) and Sophie (Cunningham), as well.”

That confidence will serve her well as she returns to the WNBA after having her rookie season cut short by an ankle injury that had been bothering her for a while.

Smith was shut down in July for surgery. Repairs to cartilage and torn ligaments were followed by several months of rehab, which she underwent in her native Australia.

It wasn’t even close to her longest stint away from basketball, though.

“I’ve had issues with injuries a lot early on,” she said. “When I was 16, I was out for a year and a half, then I had a back issue. I had stress fractures in my back and I was out for a year. So, that was a short one for me.”

Brondello noted that there were some setbacks during the recovery, but Smith is looking like herself again on the court and benefited from her first international league season. She returned to competitive basketball in the Republic of Korea’s WKBL for the 2019-20 season, making the All-Star team as a rookie.

That, too, was cut short. The WKBL suspended play in front of fans in February due to COVID-19, then put the league on hold in early March.

It wasn’t time wasted, though. The experience in South Korea exposed her to a different style of basketball where quickness reigns. It made her get in the best shape of her life, Smith said.

“It was really, really good experience to me,” she said. “I think just to kind of get my feet under me and be able to play within a different style.”

As she returns to the WNBA, she’s getting back into the swing of playing with dominant veterans and a host of new faces.

“I think that's a bonus,” Smith said about the new players. “We're just trying to learn to play with each other and feel that chemistry. We've already had a couple of practices and it's already looking really, really good. We're actually really happy with how we're playing together and we're picking things up really fast. So I think we have, like I said, versatility. I think we can get up and down the floor really well. I'm really excited.”