Posted On: 10/24/18 6:49 PM

Nelson Smith was a key factor in Riverdale’s success a season ago.

The 2019 forward averaged 8.3 PPG and 4.8 RPG behind brothers Jacob and Jadrian Tracey. He had 11 games with 10 plus points as the Raiders finished 18-9 losing in the Class 8A region final to St. Pete.

Smith, a 6’6″, 195-pounder has gotten taller and stronger. Expect him to be the leader of this new look group this season.

He said at the start of his junior season he practiced with JV and had to prove to his coach that he could play.

“I worked hard day in and day out. Going to morning practices and being a leader on the JV level to earn my varsity spot. I worked my way to varsity and once I got there I was still working. Trying to earn a starting spot on varsity eventually I got there after working my butt off,” Smith told Prep Hoops. “Then from there, my game jumped from another level, I was a better shooter, rebounder, passer and defensive player then I was before. I had a lot of great games and a lot of bad games. As far as we went in the playoffs almost making it to states.”

Smith was the top 3-point shooter with a 34 percent clip a season ago.

“I became the most improved player of the year and the scholar-athlete award for the team. I really took on coaches challenge and proved I was capable of playing on varsity and being a leader with a big impact on the team,” he said. “As becoming a senior at Riverdale and most of our team graduating, me as a leader and my game has to step up and have to help my team go just as far last year if not even further and go to states. I can’t wait to prove and show everybody that I can take this team and lead them to a good run in the playoffs.”

This summer, Smith played with Riverdale in team camps and fall leagues.

No offers have come yet but Albany State and Marietta have shown interest.

Smith pointed to his biggest strengths as his integrity and determination to work every day to become a better person and better athlete all together.

He wants to continue to get stronger and faster and work on his ballhandling and passing skills.

“We are going to surprise a lot of people when the season comes and show people that we can still play and go far in the playoffs,” Smith said. “We have a lot of people doubting us out there and we are on a mission to prove them wrong and show everybody what we are about.”

A model kid off the court, Smith also suits up for the Riverdale baseball team. He has the looks of a collegiate player with his size, strength and smarts. A Division III or NAIA program would be wise to take him on. Smith isn’t overpowering but he can control the tempo and lead his group in transition and in set plays. I expect him to make a name for himself this season as the alpha at Riverdale.