The Smiths share everything together.
From their cadence as they walk to the placement of the tattoos they don on their bodies. Since the beginning, they’ve always had one another and their passion for basketball.
As early as second grade, incoming Ball State freshman basketball players, Hailey and Olivia Smith, frequently joined in on games of street ball set up by their older brothers. Across local courts in Fishers, Indiana, they faced their siblings and older guys in their neighborhood.
“Our household was full of boys; we have four other brothers, so it was just me and Olivia,” Hailey said. “Our childhood was just with boys, doing everything with our brothers’ friends.”
These battles in the street became a constant throughout the twins’ lives. They began taking their love for the sport with them to school, battling classmates at recess.
“We didn’t really [play] any other sport,” Olivia said. “We wouldn’t be the ones playing with Barbie dolls and stuff either, it was always like, ‘I just want to be outside playing basketball.’”
This was the twins’ only exposure to basketball until they joined a travel team together in the sixth grade. This travel squad was aimed at improving play and introducing the idea of culture, directly leading them into what would be their future team, the Fishers High School Lady Tigers, where Hailey and Olivia made a name for themselves within the basketball world, expanding their potential to way outside of Fishers.
Making varsity all four years, they helped propel the school to success and led the squad to a state championship game last year.
“Hailey and Olivia have a competitiveness and a toughness about them, that is pretty clear,” head coach Lauren Votaw said. “They hate to lose and they are willing to hold their teammates and themselves accountable to things that they know need to be done in order for us to win.”
Their competitiveness thrived on the court alongside some new-found leadership developed throughout their high school career. While they acclimated to this position, they made sure their teammates had the same goals in mind; to achieve a championship and nothing less.
“It was one of our first open gyms last fall and in practice, I don’t remember if it was somebody complaining or somebody not going hard, but one of the twins looked at that player and said, ‘We are trying to win a championship, we don’t have time for that,’” Votaw said. “That’s kind of the way they approach everything.”
Throughout their time at Fishers, Votaw asked for immense growth from the twins, and as time went on, she saw the results combined with a heightened desire from the twins to continue growing on their own. Votaw said that within many facets of their lives, they became very disciplined, putting in the work to improve themselves overall.
Ball State head coach Brady Sallee, has seen what Votaw helped instill within the Smiths’ over the last four years. Sallee said he could not be more excited to have them join the Cardinals this year.
In his thirty years of coaching, Sallee has not seen any one player be similar to another. This is why with the Smiths, he cannot emphasize enough how unique of players they are.
“They kind of have a wingman built in, where if one ain’t feeling it, then the other one picks up the slack, so I think that’s clearly a different dynamic in and of itself,” Sallee said. “There’s days that I can’t always tell them apart, but it just lends to the story, you know? They’re just really, really neat kids.”
Sallee associates this uniqueness with how the twins are seemingly able to read one another’s mind, on and off the court. In their short time with the team, he says their contributions have been immense, immediately boosting team morale and creating a positive environment.
“The first thing we were drawn to when we recruited them was the personality and the intensity; The dog,” Sallee said. “As you get to know them through the process, you see that it’s to the heart. It’s not turned on, it’s not necessarily generated by the basketball floor, it’s just part of who they are.”
Hailey and Olivia attribute their attitude and energy to their love for family. They are big on traditions and spending time together with the ones they love. The twins said at the end of the day, no matter what they go through, they will always have each other.
“Family comes first. I always say we all still know at the end of the day that this is where it all started,” Hailey said.
With their family standing ready behind them, the Smiths are looking forward to what’s to come, excited to begin their collegiate career. In the twins’ short time with the team, they’ve recognized their growth within basketball and the ability they have to shift their mentality as they enter a new level of play.
The welcoming environment of Ball State is something they’re proud to be a part of, already making lasting connections with their new teammates. Branding this season as one for learning, the Smiths’ are thankful to be experiencing it alongside their other half.
“Individually, I just want to take this year as a learning experience, really take it all in so next year, I can come back better,” Olivia said. “As a team, we want to make it far; you don’t want to lose.”
Contact Trinity Rea via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X @thetrinityrea.