A Cowgirl has Found Her Family

By Ed Johnson
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

This is a story about daughters and mothers, but not in the way you think. It’s about how you define a home and a family.

It’s about a little girl named China Smith who wanted to know someone cared, wanted to know if someone could possibly be proud of her — hell, she just wanted a little attention from her mother.

It’s about that little girl who grew up to be a young woman — someone who had built walls around her, but found a safe place where she could take a couple of them down.

It’s about a big-city girl who became a Cowgirl.

Vegas? Nevada?

China Smith plays basketball for New Mexico Highlands and does so with fierce abandon.

She’s had to learn to temper some of that anger she developed on the streets of her native Los Angeles, and is averaging a double-double (10.6 points, 10.4 rebounds) a game for the 5-6 Cowgirls. She had a conference-record 28 rebounds in this season’s opener against University of the Southwest.

The 6-1 senior post is working on a master’s degree a long way from where her life started. She was redshirting at Cal State-Northridge when the coaching staff was fired. She figured it was a sign that she should give up basketball, give up college.

But on the day she got her release from Northridge she got a call from NMHU assistant Richard Bridgewater. He convinced her to fly out for a visit. She was not sure why, but she said yes. Somehow, she thought Highlands was in Albuquerque. “I can do another city,” she thought. But after her plane landed, she was told they would be driving a little farther north. She fell asleep on the way.

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