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SVC's Smith keeps smiling as he piles up the points
You’d be hard-pressed to get the smile off Trey Smith’s face.
In his first year with Saddleback Valley Christian’s basketball program, Smith acts as though he’s been there forever. His teammates mimic that trait.
Smith landed at SVC toward the end of the 2014-15 school year when his mother began commuting to San Juan Capistrano for work. He’s found a home on the campus and he’s having the time of his life.
Smith, a transfer from St. John Bosco, brings a wealth of competitive experience, which was needed for a Warriors team that graduated its senior leader last year and lost a junior to transfer.
“It’s like he’s been here for 10 years,” Warriors coach Tom Lewis said. “He comes from the Trinity League, so he’s much more experienced because of the exposure those guys have.”
Smith has been spectacular for the Warriors this season, putting up double-digit points in every game of a challenging schedule.
The scary part? His scoring prowess isn’t the primary factor in what makes him so formidable. Smith’s dedication to the classroom and during study sessions keeps him ahead of the competition.
He’s a leader, one SVC is more than happy to have around.
“He’s definitely provided competition for everybody,” teammate Josh Crutchfield said. “He’s definitely been a role model to look up to and compete against.”
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Smith broke from the mold by playing basketball. Born into a baseball family, Smith was drawn away by watching Allen Iverson when he was a kid.
The family may give him grief now and then about playing with a bigger sphere, but it doesn’t mind. Smith, the only child of Karl and Tana Smith, has played basketball since he was 5.
Karl Smith played baseball. Tana Smith was a figure skater, but once Iverson graced the television screen, Trey Smith was hooked.
“It just really made me want to play the game with how exciting it was,” Smith recalled. “It made me fall in love with it.”
He started playing organized basketball shortly after, enjoying the camaraderie with friends that came with it.
Games gave him an opportunity to showcase what he had learned through watching NBA guards. Watching games at home became extra film study, and Smith was a sponge.
Smith estimates he still spends 15 to 20 hours per week watching NBA games and studying guards like Tony Parker and Chris Paul.
“I’m just looking at the reads they make in certain offenses and then translating that onto the court so when I see something, it’s like second nature,” Smith said.
Smith started his high school career playing against Lewis’ Warriors at Fairmont Prep. The following year, he landed at St. John Bosco after a family move to San Pedro. Playing in raucous gyms at Mater Dei, Orange Lutheran and Santa Margarita toughened him as a sophomore.
He showed up at SVC before the start of the program’s summer workouts. He fell in love with the tight-knit community, the family environment.
“At the end of the day, these guys want to play college basketball,” Lewis said. “So it’s not about how many games you win, the only relevancy is you getting better. Your job as a coach and the kids dream is to become the best player he can possibly become.”
Lewis praises Smith for his basketball IQ. Crutchfield described it as “out of the gym.”
It is, perhaps, a direct reflection of the countless hours he spends studying others and what they see. His hard work translates to the classroom, where he holds a 4.35 GPA and has put in extra time by taking a calculus course at Cypress College in the fall.
The work ethic was instilled by his parents, and Smith appreciates them for those lessons.
“They always make sure that I put school before basketball,” Smith said. “I’m not allowed to touch a basketball when I get home until my homework is done.”
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On Jan. 22, the Warriors were in a battle with San Joaquin League rival Capistrano Valley Christian. The game went into overtime, but no one seemed worried.
Smith scored 22 of SVC’s 51 points that night. The Warriors won, 51-47, in a big game to start their league title defense. Smith’s Trinity League background has come into play multiple times this season, but none more critical than in that contest.
“He’s definitely a leader on this team and he’s helped us to become stronger and we practice like this everyday, so if we go to overtime, we know what to do,” Crutchfield said.
Added Lewis: “He’s always calm and cool and plays within himself, he doesn’t get rattled and I think that’s from his Trinity League experience. He’s been exposed to a lot higher level.”
Smith transferred into the program when it was at a crossroads. Eric Rwahwire, who led the team for the previous two seasons, graduated after the 2014-15 season. Then-junior forward Irshad Hunte, last year’s second-leading scorer, transferred.
When Smith arrived, he was told immediately that he would have to take on a leadership role. Not even the Trinity League could prepare him for a transition that quick.
“I didn’t expect it to be as big as it is now,” he said. “I think as the season has gone on I’ve gotten more comfortable in the role.”
If that wasn’t enough, this year’s second-leading scorer, sophomore Tomas Soto, left for Santa Margarita midway through the season. Yet Smith and the Warriors have held their ground. He’s elevated the play of those around him.
When they’ve needed a scorer, Smith has provided. As of Feb. 5, Smith was the fourth-leading scorer in the county, averaging 24.9 points per game.
Lewis has been most impressed by Smith’s midrange game, saying he can dribble and get off the floor faster than a defender can get his arm in the air. But Smith knows being a leader isn’t all about scoring.
“He just looks for everybody, he finds his shot he finds everyone else’s shot,” Crutchfield said. “(He’s) definitely got me going harder on defense, looking for my shot and being confident in my offense. Seeing him be so confident, makes me want to feel that way.”
Whether it’s a midrange jumper, or leading by example in practice, Smith has elevated SVC basketball in a season where the team needed its next “alpha dog,” as Lewis described it.
Smith has found a place to call home. He’s is enjoying every moment as evidenced by his seemingly never-ending grin.
“He gives (his teammates) confidence because he believes in them, communicates with them,” Lewis said. “They respect him. Any guy that respects other guys, helps build that confidence and builds the team camaraderie. The guys respond to it.”
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