By Maurice Patton
Gary Smith Jr., who earned all-state and all-state tournament honors while helping Columbia Academy to a Class A championship in 2019 and averaged a double-double for the Bulldogs his senior season, will continue his career collegiately at Walters State.
The 6-5, 210-pounder considered the prep school route before opting for Walters, a two-year program in Morristown, Tenn.
“I think it’ll be a good fit for me there,” said Smith, who averaged 15.8 points and 11.4 rebounds as CA advanced to the Division II-A region quarterfinals last year and finished 21-8 after claiming the Class A title with a 31-5 mark two seasons ago. “I kinda wanted to go to this prep school (Aspire Basketball Academy, in Louisville), but I think with the coaching staff (at Walters State), this will be a good investment of my time.”
After playing primarily in the paint for his two years at Columbia Academy, the junior college route will allow Smith to transition away from the rim – a transition veteran CA coach Marty DeJarnette is enthused to see him make.
“I think the sky is the limit for him,” DeJarnette said. “He’s one of the most explosive players I’ve coached in a long time. He’s got areas to improve, but if he gets after it and gets to work, I’m exited to see where this takes him.
“We had other areas of need for him, but he’s got the ability (to play on the perimeter). He just needs the reps. If he puts in the work, he’s going to get some looks at the next level. I just wish he was going to be closer so I could watch him.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is likely that Walters State – a member, like Columbia State, of the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association – will not begin its men’s basketball season until January 2021. Smith, however, is viewing the delay as positively as possible.
“It’s going to give me a chance to develop more,” he said. “I cannot wait to be a part of something like this.”
Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.