There is 1:51 remaining in the second half. The Gold Rush are up 50-46. Gary Smith has the ball. He dribbles once— twice—three times before he makes his move. At 1:50, he drives from the top of the key, the ball in perfect control underneath his sure hand. He crosses over. 1:49. He’s driving right, a determined look on his face and a not-so-clear path to the goal. 1:48. He’s at the goal now, ball cradled in his hands. 1:47. He shoots. A Southern University at New Orleans defender hits him. The ball goes in anyway. 1:46. And one. “Being on the court just feels natural,” said Smith.
Around six or seven was when Smith started his basketball career. His dad put him in a park league, and he has been playing ever since. In high school, Smith attended and played for the Village School, for which he started varsity all four years. During this time, he averaged 13 points and six assists as a sophomore and 14.5 points, six assists, six rebounds and three steals per game as a senior.
He was also a four-time all tournament selection. His high school career led to his Gold Rush career. Gold Rush head coach Dannton Jackson was watching a showcase on the Westbank in New Orleans when he first saw Smith. It was an Amateur Athletic Union tournament for seniors, and Smith was playing. The Gold Rush were looking for a point guard, someone who was real “steady,” according to Jackson. Smith fit that mold. “He had a heck of a weekend, where he played a whole lot of games. I think his last day he played three or four games. And then the next day he came over and we played about three or four games here,” said Jackson.The coach recruited Smith in 2012.
“It was just his toughness,” said Jackson on why he recruited Smith, “his competitive fire. He was just a good student coming from a good program at the Village School.” Smith, a New Orleans native who moved to Houston after Hurricane Katrina, said he decided to suit up for Xavier because it was “back home.” “I had family down there,” said Smith.
Stellar Xavier Career:
Now, four years later, Smith is a senior guard on a 13-member Gold Rush team. This season Smith is averaging 7.5 points, 1 steal, 3.1 assists, and 2.3 rebounds. On Feb. 15, 2016, Smith put up a career high 24 points, including a buzzer beating three from just below the half-court line to end half-time.
But being a student-athlete isn’t as easy as it looks. “It’s tough,” said Smith. “A lot of work. A lot of late nights and early mornings. It’s just work.” According to Jackson, Smith has grown tremendously since his first arrival at Xavier. A big time competitor, Jackson said that Smith is fun to coach. “Gary is fun,” said Jackson.“It’s been a fun four years.”
Smith will graduate at the end of this semester. He couldn’t name one specific thing he would miss the most, but Xavier in general. “The people, playing basketball. Everything,” said Smith. “I love Xavier.” Of all the success Smith has had on the court, it’s his off the court success that Jackson is most proud of. “I’m most proud he’s going to graduate,” said Jackson. “That’s all I want for all Xavier athletes is a degree. I’m most proud he’s going to get his degree.”
Off the Court:
Smith is a psychology major and public health minor with intentions on becoming a family emergency therapist and clinical psychologist. His favorite team is the Los Angeles Clippers, and his
favorite player is Chris Paul. Even with his successful career at Xavier, his favorite memory is still from playing in high school.
“My best basketball memory would have to be, probably, my senior night in high school,” said Smith .”I had played with basically my best friends from middle school to high school, and it was the last time we played, so that was pretty cool.” When he’s not playing basketball, Smith likes to watch movies and listen to music. “I’m big into music,” said Smith. “I listen to a lot, lot of music.” He also likes to read and go out to see the city.
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