There have been many ways and circumstances in which athletes have ended their careers. However, there is one way that every athlete would like to go out: on top. What better way to wrap things up than to win it all? It happened that way for Broncos quarterback John Elway. Years later, Jerome “The Bus” Bettis experienced that same achievement, and in his hometown of Detroit, no less. If the end of this current season works out the way Fairmont Height’s Kevin Smith wants it, he’ll get to feel the same excitement that Elway and Bettis felt.
Smith’s goal to finish out his senior season is simple; he plans to win the championship. The championship in question is the MPSSAA Class 1A Championship. Luckily for Smith, he’s not alone in this quest. He has an army behind him, so to speak.
“My team has helped me out tremendously,” said Smith. One teammate he singles out in particular is fellow senior backcourt mate, and friend, Darrell Bolding. “Every day in practice we push each other. He’ll push me in some areas, I’ll push him in some areas,” said Smith.
This effort to push each other extends to the whole team. “When we go five-on-five in practice, we try to push each other,” Smith stated.
While they do try to get the best out of one another, Smith and crew are always looking to help as well. He stated, “When we practice game situations, if somebody is doing something wrong, we don’t yell at them. We don’t fuss and argue. We go and talk to them and show them that this is what you can do.”
When it comes to providing help and insight, it goes all the way up and down the line. “We help out the freshmen, to JV (Junior Varsity), to even the seniors who don’t see things that we see,” Smith said. When it comes to this team, “Everyone plays a role,” according to Smith.
In addition to helping his fellow Hornets, Smith knows that there are parts of his own game that he must improve. “The part of my game I’m trying to work on is seeing the floor better,” he said. “I remember, when I first started to play, I used to have tunnel vision to my right side. I would only see what was on the right side of the floor because I’m right handed.”
Because Smith has focused on this weakness, he has seen this skill area develop. “I think I’ve developed in seeing the floor better and moving the ball. I am also seeing how, when I move, players move.” He is also seeing how he can “set up reactions” to get his teammates the ball. “If I drive past one player up top, I know the big man is stepping out on me. So, if he steps out on me, I know my man on the block is open.” With more efforts to analyze different situations on the floor, Smith knows that he can make continued improvements when it comes to seeing the floor.
When it comes to developing as a player, overall, Smith stated, “I think I developed slowly but surely.” While things went pretty smooth in his JV career, Varsity came with some growing pains. “I was new to it, so I had to make some adjustments,” Smith admits. Smith now refers to his first season on Varsity as “mostly a learning experience.” Now, as a senior, Smith said that this year is his to “go after it and play my heart out.”
College is definitely on the mind of this senior. When asked what he was looking for in a school, Smith said, “I don’t want to go to a school just for basketball. I want to go to a school where I can get actually get a good education. I want to benefit from it.”
While getting to the professional ranks would be great, getting a proper education is the priority. “I’d rather get my degree and have something else to fall back on, just in case I need a plan B.” Smith would like to major in biology wherever he decides to attend school in the fall.
Whether he is in the classroom or on the floor, Smith knows that he has at least a few people who look up to him: his little brothers. “They influence me to play better and to stay on top of my game,” Smith stated.
Smith’s little brothers also play basketball. According to Smith, “After every game I hear ‘Mommy, I want to wear number ten (Smith’s number). Mommy, I want to play like Kevin.’ Knowing that they want to be like me and try to mimic things that I do motivates me to be a better person and do a better job of things in any aspect that I can.”
With the MPSSAA playoffs starting for Fairmont Heights this week, time and play will determine what will happen with Smith and his team. With plenty of factors to motivate him and a goal set, Smith will do anything he can to “go after it” and finish his senior year on top.