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Indiana basketball: What you need to know about assistant coach Amber Smith

Smith spent seven seasons on the staff at Kentucky.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Kentucky at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana women’s basketball announced the hiring of Amber Smith as an assistant coach on Monday in an official release.

Her hiring followed the departure of associate head coach Glenn Box to the head coaching job at Miami (OH).

Smith had spent the previous seven years in various roles at Kentucky, her alma mater, where she ranks sixth all-time in total assists and eighth in assists per game. The Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight twice during her career in Lexington.

She went into coaching after her playing career came to an end, working as a graduate assistant at Tennessee before moving onto a full-time assistant role at Louisiana Tech. Eventually, she returned to Kentucky in 2016 as director of player development.

Matthew Mitchell, Smith’s college coach, was the one to hire and eventually promote her to an assistant role in 2018. Smith was retained by current head coach Kyra Elzy, who worked alongside her as associate head coach and was an assistant during her playing career, when the latter was named interim and then permanent head coach when Mitchell announced his retirement in November 2020.

As an assistant, Smith worked with Kentucky’s guards, with notable names from Smith’s time in Lexington including Makayla Epps, Rhyne Howard and Jada Walker.

Epps was selected with the 33rd overall pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft when Smith worked as director of player development. She was a three-time First Team All-SEC honoree and two-time AP All-America honorable mention, leading Kentucky with 17.7 points per game as a senior.

Howard, who played against Indiana in 2020 and 2021, joined Kentucky in 2018, the same year as Smith’s promotion to assistant coach. She went onto be named National Freshman of the Year by multiple outlets before being named a three-time First Team AP All-American and led the Wildcats to an upset over No. 1 South Carolina in the 2022 SEC Tournament Championship.

She was then selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft by the Atlanta Dream.

Walker was a true freshman point guard in 2021-22 who started all 22 of Kentucky’s 31 games. She averaged 10.4 points per game and was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman team.

Smith will likely take over Box’s duties of working with Indiana’s guards, developing established talent like Yarden Garzon, Chloe Moore-McNeil and Sydney Parrish while bringing along incoming freshmen like Jules LaMendola and Lenee Beaumont.

If a program is looking to replace the coach who helped develop the best guard in program history, Grace Berger, it certainly helps that Smith did so with an eventual No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft.