Monday, October 11, 2010

More on Stephon Smith

Sometimes the right person appears in your life at the right time. Call it a blessing, serendipity, good fortune, kismet or what you will, new San Jose State University (SJSU) basketball recruit Stephon Smith has already experienced such a connection.

If you recall from an earlier article, Smith said this: "Coach {Pat] Washington made me into who I am...I had a hard time opening up after going through Katrina and Coach Washington helped me." Washington teaches at Woodrow Wilson High in Dallas and also coaches the boys basketball team.

Smith arrived at Wilson High as a sophomore. This after Hurricane Katrina forced him from New Orleans and after spending a year staying with friends in Mississippi.

Now one of the fascinating aspects of young people -- despite the usual multitude (music - no pun intended, clothing, hair and so on) -- of so-called bad raps, is that sometimes there is also a raw, unfiltered directness in their speaking and interaction.

That's Smith on and about his former coach.

But it's a mutual admiration society that runs both ways.

Washington, who earlier coached 6-foot-10 Anthony Randolph (the former LSU star who played for the Golden State Warriors and is now with the New York Knicks) plus 6-foot-11 Perry Jones (a top player in the country last season who is now a freshman at Baylor), has long been in the praise chorus surrounding Smith.

"Steph is a super kid, strong-willed and strong-minded. I love him," said Washington.

He added, "Steph has always known what he wanted. With his ability and body type, in my heart of hearts, I believe he will be really, really good and be successful on and off the floor. He works his butt off."

But as an outsider to the school and a newbie to the team, Smith didn't instantaneously blend well with his teammates.

"I'm a firm believer teammates have got to be friends -- at least on the court -- and working in the same direction," Washington explained.

It took a while but the relationship between Smith and his mates became the close and Wilson finished the last two seasons with 24-7 and 17-8 overall records respectively.

After the 2009-2010 season, it was decision time for Smith.

"A lot of JCs wanted Steph but I thought it would be good for him mentally, socially and in [basketball] skill development to attend a prep school first, "explained Washington.

According to Washington, "A friend of mine knew Coach [Ian] Turnbull and his program in New Jersey."

So eventually it was off to the Garden State for Smith in a current post-grad year at the CJEOTO Academy.

As for the connection of Smith and SJSU, Washington offered, "I couldn't be more happy I've known [SJSU Assistant] Coach [Talvin] Hester since our AAU days."

Earlier, Smith, his mother and Washington sat down and created a life action plan for the young man.

It didn't contain 'college: San Jose State University' in it at the time but Spartan fans are glad it now does.

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