The Lady Bobcat basketball team closed out their 2019-20 season with an impressive 29-4 record, claiming the A.I.I. Conference Championship Title and ranked No. 5 in NAIA DII as they headed to the NAIA National Championship. Unfortunately for the Lady Cats, who looked to have a great opportunity for success in the event, the national championship was canceled before the Lady Cats could take the court.
Today we recognize our Lady Bobcats’ senior leaders, Ashley Forrest and Aleksei Smith. Both were four-year members of the team, and during their tenure, the Lady Bobcats posted an impressive 119-15 record!
#10 – Ashley Forrest – Ashley is a 5’7 guard, who hails from Branson, Mo. She worked in the Athletic Training Room on campus and pursued a major in Allied Health.
As a freshman, Ashley saw time in all 33 games, racking up 135 points, 62 rebounds, 17 assists, and 16 steals. Twice during the season, she scored 12 points – first versus Cumberlands (Ky.) and later against Johnson & Wales (Co.). She was named the Most Improved Player on the team and recognized on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll.
Playing in 32 games as a sophomore, Ashley continued to make significant contributions on the court, although her time was more limited due to injury. Nonetheless, she scored a total of 122 points, pulled down 37 boards, dished out 24 assists, and nabbed 10 steals. She shot the ball well, hitting 31 three-pointers at a 40.3% pace and swishing 75% of her free-throws. She was a positive encourager on and off the court, particularly to the incoming freshmen, and she once again achieved a spot on the Athletic Director’s honor roll.
Ashley’s junior season found her playing with increased intensity and improving in every statistical category. She scored 197 total points (5.6 ppg) off the bench, and more than doubled her totals in assists (56), rebounds (92), and steals (28). Ashley shot the ball well, going 41.5% from the field and 39% from three-point range, netting 41 treys. She set her new career high in scoring against Hastings (Neb.), when she put up 15 points, featuring three 3-pointers. Ashley tied her record later in the season against Northern New Mexico. She was also impressive in the classroom, receiving honors as an NCCAA and NAIA Scholar Athlete.
Ashley’s final season has been her best as a Lady Cat, solidifying a position in the starting rotation. She averaged a career-best 8.4 points per game, scoring 277 points. In addition, she set or tied her career bests in every category, as she pulled down 110 rebounds, dished 67 assists, swiped 27 steals, and blocked 13 shots this season. Ashley drained 70 three-pointers at 42.4%, ranking #12 in NAIA DII, and shot 45.4% from the field. On January 4th, versus Northern New Mexico, she scored her career high of 22 points, going 8-12 from the field, while netting six of ten from downtown. Ashley closed out the season being named A.I.I. All-Conference Honorable Mention and was the A.I.I. and NAIA Champion of Character. She also continued her excellence in the classroom, being named a Scholar Athlete at the national level.
For her career, Ashley has scored 731 points, gathered 301 rebounds, dished 164 assists, nabbed 81 steals, and blocked 18 shots. She holds a career field goal percentage of 40.7% and a career 3-point field goal percentage of 39.1%. Ashley completes her career ranked #39 in the Lady Cats All-Time Record Book of Career Assist Leaders, #45 in Career Scoring, #49 in Career Rebound Leaders.
Following graduation, Ashley will begin graduate school at Missouri State University to pursue a doctorate degree in Physical Therapy. She is also excited to be getting married to her high school sweetheart. When asked about her most memorable game as a Lady Cat, Ashley replied, “My freshman year we played Morningside in the NAIA tournament, and we upset them after they had beat us earlier that season.”
“Ashley has been the ultimate team player,” commented Coach Mullis, “spending the beginning of her career as a backup guard, then working her way into a starting role her senior year. I am proud of Ashley for staying the course, working to improve each season, and ultimately achieving her goal of being a starting guard for our program. I will remember Ashley as a tremendous student, who is committed to performing well in all aspects of her life. Thank you for all you have done to continue the tradition of OZARKS basketball.”
#12 Aleksei Smith - Aleksei is a 5’7 guard from Berryville, Arkansas. She majored in Physical Education and worked at the Day Care Center on campus until the beginning of the spring semester, when she began her student teaching placement at Branson Public Schools.
In her freshman season at College of the Ozarks, Aleksei played in 27 games, contributing 67 points and 27 rebounds. She shot 48.9% from the field, as well as a team-leading 43.5% from three and 84.6% from the free throw line. In a January 6th game against Grace (Neb.), Aleksei scored a career-high 18 points, sinking four three-pointers.
Aleksei played a pivotal role on both ends of the court during her sophomore season. She crushed her freshman stats by scoring 161 points, almost 100 more than last season. Aleksei tripled her numbers in rebounding with 95, nicely balanced between offense (50) and defense (45). She handed off 51 assists and swiped 29 steals. Aleksei was consistently strong from the free throw line, shooting a team-best 88.3%. Academically, she was named to the Athletic Director’s honor roll.
With two solid seasons under her belt, Aleksei earned a position in the starting rotation as a junior, seeing time in 35 games. She again increased her offensive production with a total of 266 points scored for an average of 7.6 points per game, while also handing off 89 assists to her teammates. In addition, Aleksei collected 57 offensive and 59 defensive rebounds, putting her season total at 116 boards (3.3 per game). She set her career highs in steals with five against Lincoln Christian (Ill.) in January and in assists with seven on two occasions, once versus Southwestern (Kan.) and the other against Northern New Mexico. Aleksei also recorded an impressive game against Northwestern College in the NAIA DII National Championship Quarterfinals, scoring 17 points on a 5-for-10 performance, while pulling down a career-high eight rebounds. At the close of the season, she collected the team’s Hustle Award.
In her final season as a Lady Bobcat, Aleksei stepped into a much bigger role, both as a contributor and leader. Aleksei played in every game, scoring a total of 226 points (6.8 per game). She posted nine games in which she scored in double figures. An unselfish player, Aleksei handed off a team-leading 92 assists to her teammates. On the season, she led the team with 53 offensive rebounds. She was second in total rebounds with 139 and field-goal shooting percentage at 51%. On January 20th, she was named A.I.I. Player of the Week for two solid performances during the prior week against Lincoln Christin (Ill.) and Holy Family (Wisc.), where she went 9-11 from the field, including 4-for-5 in three pointers. She closed out the season being named A.I.I. Second Team All-Conference, A.I.I. All-Tournament Team, and NCCAA Scholar Athlete.
For her career, Aleksei has played in 128 games, scoring 720 points, grabbing 377 boards, dishing out 245 assists, and swiping 93 steals. She has proven to be an efficient shooter over the past four years, posting career shooting percentages of 49.2% (FG), 43.4% (3-pt), and 81.8% (FT). Aleksei completed her career ranked #22 in the Lady Cats All-Time Record Book of Career Assist Leaders, #35 in Career Rebound Leaders, and #47 in Career Scoring. Academically, Aleksei has qualified for the AD Honor Roll every season, posting an impressive 4.0 GPA this past fall.
“Aleksei will go down as one of the hardest workers I have ever coached,” stated Coach Mullis. “She worked herself from a rarely-played walk-on early in her career, to a two-year starter who routinely guards the opponent’s best player night in and night out. Aleksei is tough, determined, and committed to excelling in all she strives to do. Thank you, Aleksei, for never giving up on your dream to play for OZARKS, then working to make your dream a reality.”
Congratulations go out to Aleksei on recently being named as the 2020 recipient of the Angela Mallonee Garbee Scholarship. This award is granted to a graduating PE major with coaching aspirations, who displays a strong work ethic, high character, and financial need.
Aleksei is excited to begin her teaching and coaching career at Hollister beginning in the fall.
Best wishes, ladies, and thanks for the memories!