The next level?

Kim Smith and Shona Thorburn have had quite a career playing alongside one another for the U women’s basketball team.

Both Smith and Thorburn have started every game in every season and capped off their junior season last year as Co-Mountain West Players of the Year.

It was the third straight MWC Player of the Year award for Smith, rewarding her for averaging 17.8 points and 8.9 rebounds a game for the Utes.

Smith hasn’t shown any signs of a letdown in her final season with Utah, and it’s starting to bring attention from the WNBA.

Recently, the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting, who will have the third and 10th pick of April’s WNBA draft, listed Smith as one of the college basketball players to watch.

“A great shooter and rebounder, she is also a post-up threat in the paint. Having started all 96 games of her college career, Smith enters the season ranked fifth all-time on Utah’s career scoring list,” the Sting Web site said about Smith. “She also has been recognized for three consecutive years as a Kodak Honorable Mention All-America.” analyst Ann Meyers also mentioned Smith in her “Preseason College Seniors to Watch” article.

“She is just smooth and very deceptive, has a very good outside shot, can defend, gets in the lane; (she is) a physical player who can rebound,” Meyers said. “She is smart, very smart.”

Another analyst, Matt Wurst, also placed Smith as well as Thorburn in a list of potential top picks for April’s WNBA draft.

Through 17 games, Smith is averaging 18.5 points and 7.2 rebounds, while shooting 51 percent for the Utes.

She also earned her third MWC Player of the Week award last week, where she averaged 24 points, 5.5 rebounds and shot 66.7 percent (18-27) from the field, helping the Utes in victories over Air Force and UNLV.

Thorburn has also been putting up impressive numbers. She is averaging 10.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.35 assists (No.1 in MWC, No. 8 in NCAA) and 2.12 steals this season.

Although Thorburn’s averages aren’t as high as Smith’s, her all-around numbers bring the type of value to a team much like Jason Kidd of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets.

The seniors have helped Utah to a 13-4 overall record this season and the Utes are now 4-2 in the conference.

Thorburn and Smith still have many chances to wow WNBA executives and scouts, especially in the Utes’ rematches against No. 18 New Mexico and No. 20 BYU.

Smith and Thorburn will be back in action Saturday at 1 p.m., when they face TCU in Fort Worth, Texas.

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