Thursday, September 30, 2010

Meet Stephon Smith (the latest Spartan)

(photo courtesy of Rivals)

When envisioning San Jose State commit Stephon Smith, think of the play exhibited by Charles Oakley or Buck Williams. Each possessed a blue collar reputation as a hard worker, tenacious rebounder and physical defender.

Granted, comparisons are always dicey (especially so when lining up a post high school talent with NBA All Pro selections) but these matches vividly demonstrate how the 6-foot-8, 235 Smith approaches the game and his style of play.

We talked with a number of Smith's past and present basketball coaches and certain descriptions kept getting repeated.

Coach Ian Turnbull, who currently mentors Smith at the Central Jersey Each One Teach One Academy (CJEOTO) in the Garden State offered this: "Stephon is very athletic, has an incredible build, is very quick and displays a great motor."

One of the advantages Smith has in attending CJEOTO is the academy offers these academic enhancements:

* Only student/athletes that have completed high school and have received their high school diploma will be accepted to The Academy.
* Our NCAA Clearinghouse approved student/athletes attend Ocean Community College classes where they may take up six credit hours per semester.
* Our student/athletes who have not attained the required SAT score for them to be approved by the NCAA Clearinghouse attend MAC Testing in Tinton Falls for SAT Prep classes.

According to Turnbull, Smith need to add two points to his test score to qualify.

CJEOTO plays 35-40 games during the season against top regional competition.

Turnbull, who requires the hard work that facilitates improvement, and Smith are collaborating to advance the young man's offensive and defensive skills set. "I really liked him when we were first talking about me going there and I like him even more now," Smith said.

A basketballer in high school, college and as a semi-pro, Turnbull is a former assistant head coach at the Edison Academy (also in New Jersey) and has operated the CJEOTO AAU program for the past nine years before also starting up the CJEOTO Academy. In its initial season, CJEOTO Academy was ranked #2 in the state behind St. Benedict's and Turnbull was honored as the New Jersey Prep School Coach of the Year. All 11 of his players from last season are now on college scholarships.

Lawrence Johns, the founder and coach of the Dallas Seawolves club basketball team, said of Smith: "He is a good kid, a hard worker and a pure muscle, brute force inside who will help San Jose State win a lot of games."

Glenn Smith, a longtime Texas basketball figure and proprietor of the Metroplex hoops site provided this, "Stephon is a real good kid, a bruiser with a good touch around the basket and also a nice 14-15 foot jump shot."

Granted, Smith is not (yet) a big points producer but his intensity, energy and toughness within the paint currently bring the majority of his scoring numbers and it's been a while since the Spartans have enjoyed someone on the roster who will not only bang with opponents but also be the first to initiate contact.

A Hurricane Katrina transplant and a New Orleans native (his mother currently lives there), Smith landed in Dallas at esteemed Woodrow Wilson High after a year of living with friends in Mississippi.

That's where another match made in heaven occurred.

"Coach {Pat] Washington made me into who I am," Smith said. Washington coaches the boys basketball team at Wilson. "I had a hard time opening up after going through Katrina," explained Smith, " and Coach Washington helped me."

He played football in middle school but only hoops come his freshman year. "I was too tall and guys were blocking me at my knees. I didn't want to get to the point where I couldn't play the sport I love" so he left the gridiron since football season always precedes that of basketball.

Asked about his best moments or moments on the court, Smith remembered two instances. "As a freshman, he recalled, "we went to state and won and I had 18 points in the championship game. This past year, we were playing South Oak Cliff and the game went into overtime because I chased down an opponent on a breakaway and blocked his shot. I think I had eight blocks in that game."

That brings to light one of Smith's many talents: running the court. "That's something I've been gifted to be able to do" he explained.

So why did Smith go with San Jose State? "I felt that they are going to take care of me as a basketball player and a student," he said.

Interestingly, there are both musical and athletic branches in Smith's family tree. "My grandmother married into the Neville Brothers family [the First Family of Crescent City music]," Smith explained, and Eric Bieniemy, Colorado's all-time leading rusher, an NFL running back and currently a coach with the Minnesota Vikings, also is kin.

Smith specifically wanted to thank Coach Washington, Luther Riley (his freshman coach in Mississippi) plus Larry Stamps and Thandi Wade of the Jackson Tigers club basketball team for all the help and guidance they provided.

1 comment:

stacey smith said...

I am very proud of this young man, He is a determined beautiful individual who has been a gentleman all of his life, he has never given me undue unrest or anxiety and will be a forced to be long as he stays dilligent....
Stacey Smith-Brown
proud mother.