Four years ago a
skinny junior high athlete was getting some personal tutelage from Jake
Hessey, the last Colonel Crawford basketball All-Ohioan. Four years
later, that slender youngster has matured into the school’s all-time
leading scorer. Oh yeah, he’s also helped the Eagles go 12-2 after a 3-18 finish just three years ago. Meet Austin Smith.
Four years ago following the end of the 2004-05 basketball season a skinny junior high athlete was getting some personal tutelage from Jake Hessey, the last Colonel Crawford basketball All-Ohioan. Four years later, that slender youngster has matured into the Eagles’ all-time leading scorer.
Colonel Crawford senior Austin Smith passed Kent Volkmer Friday with a jumper at the left elbow at the 2:33 mark of the first quarter against Lucas to stand atop the scoring charts of his soon-to-be alma mater.
“It feels pretty good. I guess all my practice and shooting around paid off,” a reserved Smith said after the game. “Jake (Hessey) has helped me out a lot. I shot around with him a lot and he’s given me a lot tips. He has been a big part of everything.”
The Eagles held on to their one-game lead in the NCC standings as a result of their 47-29 win over Lucas spurred by Smith’s 16-point effort. Three years ago Colonel Crawford finished last in the North Central Conference with a record of 3-18.
Even as a freshman Smith was in the starting varsity lineup. His 177 points was second on that team which was coming off of back-to-back disappointing losses in district championship games.
Smith and his teammates have climbed steadily back up the ladder through hard work.
“He (Smith) has a work ethic second to none,” Colonel Crawford coach David Sheldon said. “He lives and breathes basketball. He’s become a better all-around basketball player.”
Smith and his team have shown improvement every year. Going from 7-15 in 2007 to 14-8 last year, right now the Eagles are 12-2 and riding a 10-game winning streak, the last three on the road, to first place on the leader board and one game in front with four to play in the NCC.
But Smith and his coach both quickly acknowledge this edition of Colonel Crawford is a not a one-man show.
“Give credit to my teammates,” Smith said, “for setting screens and buying into the program.”
“It’s a great accomplishment for him,” Sheldon said of Smith’s place at the top of the school’s all-time scorers. “But his teammates are just as big a part of this. We have roles, and for some of them it’s their job to get him (Smith) the ball.
“The neat thing about Smitty is it’s all about winning. He just says, ‘I just want to win Coach.’ That’s a credit to him growing up.”
Perhaps the greatest example of that came just a week ago when the Eagles were on the road against their long-time nemesis, the Wynford Royals. With the scored tied and time running down Smith drove against a double team and passed up the chance for the winning basket in the game’s final seconds, instead finding a teammate for a wide open lay-in.
“It means a lot,” Smith said of getting a win over the Eagles’ cross-county rival. “It’s the first time I beat Wynford. I just wanted to get the ‘W’ really bad at Wynford. I was just looking for the open guy and hit Josh Roe for the game winner.”
Smith went into Friday night’s game with an NCC-leading scoring average of 18.5 points per game, slightly ahead of last year’s pace. He has also turned into a respectable rebounder and is second on the team in that category. In addition, Smith is second on the Colonel Crawford team at dishing out assists to teammates and had nearly as many assists as field goals on Friday.
At 6-foot-5 and still on the slender side, Smith can and does play nearly every position on the floor for Sheldon.
Smith also became the first at Colonel Crawford boy to surpass 1,200 career points with his final field goal of the night at Lucas, a soft fade away in the lane. He is waiting until after the season is over to make his college decision. Until then, he insists there is still plenty left to do with the Eagles.
“It feels really good. We’ve worked really hard,” Smith said of contending for an NCC title. “It just feels great to see it all come together this season.”
Gary Ogle: 419-562-2222