Another season of highlights for Stevenson's Smith
It is part of the Stevenson boys basketball landscape, even more so than a Justin Smith dunk, which has become pretty commonplace itself over the last few years.
Game in and game out, one thing that always happens at Stevenson games is that Edward Smith, the father of Justin Smith, is filming. The elder Smith sits low in the stands, sometimes behind the Stevenson bench, and follows the action on his handheld camcorder.
And boy, has there been plenty of action to follow. Especially when his son is in the frame.
"He's been recording all my games since I was in second or third grade," Smith said of his dad. "I haven't really watched any of the more recent ones, other than if my dad texts me a few highlights here and there. But I am looking forward to having those when I'm older so that I can watch them with my kids and show them what I was like when I was playing basketball.
"My dad was a basketball player in high school (at Danville) but no one taped his games and I know he would love to be able to go back now and see what he used to play like. I think that's why he's been taping all of my games all these years."
By now, the younger Smith, a 6-foot-7 guard/forward/center (depending on the day and the opponent), has a fully-stocked library of instant-classic caliber videos. At the high school level, he's been wowing basketball fans in Lake County since his sophomore year, when he started on Stevenson's state championship team with megastar Jalen Brunson, who has gone on to do bigger and even better things at Villanova, the defending NCAA national champion.
Smith, known for his jumping ability, athleticism and crowd-pleasing dunks, is very much more than his reputation, and is as much a complete player as a high school kid can be. A 3-point shot: check. He has it. A strong inside game: check. A quick first step to the basket: check. Finishing in traffic, or with contact: check.
It's no accident that Smith will be joining the ranks of the Division I big boys next year when he heads south to play for the Indiana Hoosiers. But before he goes, the Daily Herald is naming him the player of the year for the 2017 Lake County all-area boys basketball team, an honor that he won last season as well. He and Brunson are among the few multiple-year winners.
"It's nice to see all the hard work I've put in over the years paying off now," Smith said. "I think it helped me a lot going against guys like Jalen and Connor (Cashaw, a sophomore at Rice) every day in practice when I was younger.
"I learned a lot from them, mainly that it's about how you practice. If you treat everything like it's a game and go hard in everything you do in practice, it will translate to the games."
Despite facing defenses that were focused on him, most often with double teams, Smith averaged 21 points and 9.8 rebounds over the regular season. His best performances were 30 points and 13 rebounds against Zion-Benton and 25 points and 15 rebounds against Crete-Monee. In that Crete-Monee game alone, he threw down a career-high 6 dunks.
"I've been dunking more this year than even the last two years," Smith said. "It's been cool because Stevenson has really never had very many dunkers in the past. It's nice to be able to do that and bring that (to the program)."
Smith will take his well-rounded game to Indiana and hopes that the coaches there can refine it and take it to an even higher level. His confidence in their ability to do that is one of the biggest reasons he signed with Indiana, ahead of dozens of other elite Division I programs, in the first place.
"With (Indiana head coach) Tom Crean, I was really impressed with how much he knows and how much I can learn from him," Smith said. "I went to Indiana a few times for visits and I could see their work with their players and how they really focus on making each player better. That's what I really want. I want them to take what I've already built and help me get it to the next level."
Make no doubt, the process will likely be very well documented. Smith can one day show his kids the videos on that, too.
Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw