For most area basketball players, averaging over 20 points a game is a really big deal. Becoming your school’s all-time leader in scoring and being mentioned as one of the best players in your area virtually guarantees your status as a local legend.
But for Marissa’s Kyle Smith, those numbers pale in comparison to his grade point average. He’s more concerned with the pages in his science book than his place in the Meteors’ history book.
Smith has topped 1,660 points in his playing career, more than any other Meteor. Despite setting his school’s scoring mark, Smith keeps it all in perspective. While starring on the basketball court, the senior guard spends his days as an honor roll student.
Smith plans to study robotics engineering at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in the fall. While hoops may be in his heart, he knows that his mind will be his greatest asset after his basketball career is over.
“I’m not planning on playing any sports at SIUE,” Smith said. “As of right now, it’s just going to be school. If something pops up, I would definitely have to consider it.”
The kid from the small town shows a calm confidence when he talks about his eventual life away from the game. His focus on his future is as clear as his vision on the court.
“I feel like I know what I want to do with the rest of my life, so I might as well get started,” he said.
Kyle, the son of Tina Lanter and Patrick Smith, said his family stressed education and that sports are a reward for good grades. Basketball, he said, was a good incentive for him to study.
As a result, Smith is able to bring some applied science to the hardwood, varying his game and assessing matchups. Standing just 5-foot-9, he uses that to his advantage when driving to the hoop against giants in the paint.
“I think a lot of my game really revolves around getting to the basket,” Smith says. “Then, when teams start to play off, that’s when my jump-shooting ability really plays into my game.
“But, on the basketball court, I try to think as little as I can. I think most of the time, I just play on instinct and let it come naturally.”
Marissa coach Scott Wine says his senior guard is a good all-around student and teammate, and that his intelligence translates to his work ethic. In breaks during practice, it’s evident that Smith processes as much of his coach’s information as possible.
“He’s a leader in practice, and not just because of how hard he works,” Wine says. “It’s in the way he listens. When I have the team in a group, and I’m talking, he’s never distracted.
“Some guys will get to a point where they think they’re really good, and they stop paying attention. But Kyle is always there; he’s always trying to figure out what he can take away from it.”
Wine said a handful of area coaches who might have initially been skeptical of the diminutive guard are now showing interest in Smith. After seeing his performances against larger schools, Smith has convinced at least a few of them that he can play at the next level.
For now, the engineering major will maintain his original plan while still measuring his options.
His coach says he’s confident his floor general will make the right call.
“Kyle is a really thoughtful kid,” Wine says. “I’m pretty confident he’ll be successful no matter what direction he goes, to be honest with you.”