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Posted On: 11/29/18 3:45 PM
While I’m typically the guy that covers all the Virginia kids, I still like to be conscious of the kids in neighboring states that can play. So when I went to the Phenom Hoops National Showcase, I knew I was going to find some studs in the NC area. The new name for myself that I was impressed with was 2021 AJ Smith of Hickory Grove.
When talking with the sophomore guard after a loss to NC power United Faith, the first thing he wanted to talk about was his team. He scored 22 point and grabbed 11 rebounds and was named MVP for his team, but he still was talking about the season and not himself.
“We didn’t have a great year last year, and I’m hoping we can come back this year,” Smith said. “I’m hoping we can win some games, win a championship and just get better everyday.”
Smith already holds offers from Charlotte and Hampton, and he’s seeing division one interest from a number of schools up and down the east coast. It’s easy to see why he’s already so popular with college coaches, as he looks like a grown man with wide shoulders and big arms, and he’s a smooth athlete that can play on and off the ball. When asked how he would describe his game he said it pretty spot on.
“I’m really aggressive and I like to get downhill,” he said with a grin. “I can finish in the midrange too, so basically get to the rim, get to the pull-up and I can find my teammates as well.”
While he’s already a successful player, Smith knows he needs to improve in many ways, and the first that he wanted to talk about was his defense.
“I really want to key in when I’m off the ball on defense, because I’m pretty good on the ball but I’d like to take my off ball defense to the next level.”
The only thing I can see being a problem moving forward is that he’s stuck between guard positions. At a strong 6’3”, he excels at getting downhill with the ball in his hands and shooting off the bounce, but he isn’t a primary ball handler yet and could improve as a catch-and-shoot guy from deep. However, he realizes this and knows what he needs to improve in moving forward.
“Right now I’m at more of a combo guard, and I’m not sure if I’ll grow anymore so I’m between a one and a two right now. I want to get more experience on the ball, but we have a lot of smaller guards who like to run the one but I know if I’m going to be a one moving forward I need more experience on the ball, bringing it up and stuff like that.”
As far as this season and next summer, Smith wants to show that he’s been working hard and it’s been paying off.
“I really want to show that my game has improved. I used to just get downhill and play like a bully, but I want to show that I’ve matured and I can find my teammates and hit jump shots as well.”
Be sure to keep an eye out for Smith moving forward. There’s a good chance he’ll make the Team Charlotte 17U team, and if he continues to improve he’ll have a chance to be a high major kid moving forward.