March 23, 2011

Smith is sterling

Kevin McCarthy

The word sterling has multiple definitions and one is a standard of fineness and excellence. So to have such a first name, combined with being a basketball player, well, expectations can be high. But that hasn’t been a hurdle let alone a bump in the road for Chico High's Sterling Smith, who dropped 48 and 40 points respectively on opponents in different games this season while also garnering Most Valuable Player honors in the Eastern Athletic League North.

photo of Sterling Smith

The 6-foot-4 195 pounder averaged a double-double of 23.5 points and 11.5 rebounds this year while also compiling 81 assists and 63 steals. He was the mainstay in the compilation of a 13-0 league and 27-2 overall record. Only a December 16 56-51 loss to Hogan (Vallejo) in a tournament game in Davis and the season finale, a 51-48 defeat at the hands of Antelope on March 10 in which Smith tallied a 19 point/16 rebound double-double, blemished the play of the Panthers.

The telltale sign of betterment: in 2008 -2009, Chico went 9-5/20-7, then followed up in 09-10 with 11-3/23-7 postings.

In an earlier article, Smith expressed his desire to improve his ball handling and his range in shooting. This season has definitely showcased the results of his drive and commitment to be a better basketball player and take his game and team to the next level.

As for his two big scoring outbursts, both came against second-place finisher 9-3 Foothill High and not versus the teams inhabiting the depths of the Eastern Athletic League North.

Commenting on the season for the Panthers, Smith said, "It went great—we were undefeated in league. We didn't get to go to Arco but we were successful."

But all was not smooth personal sailing for Smith this season. An unfortunate aspect of life today crashed into his reality in early October when Kwame Nunn, a fellow member of the Nike ICP club team and the son of Paul Nunn, the team’s coach, died after being shot in San Leandro.

To honor his teammate, Smith changed his high school jersey number from 15 to 24 -- Nunn’s number -- and had “R.I.P. Kwame” embroidered on his socks. He also dedicated his season to his lifelong friend and called upon his memories of Nunn for inspiration during the season. Further honoring the fallen Nunn, the Blazin' Heat basketball club in Chico will be hosting the Kwame Nunn Memorial Tournament on May 14 and 15.

Now with the schedule concluded, attention is turning to recruiting. Smith is fine academically and has already decided to major in psychology so now "it's looking for just the right fit and the opportunity to play."

Sterling’s father, Tony Smith (who heads the Chico Blazin’ Heat AAU program), added, "There’s no hurry, we’re letting the process play out. I’m a big education guy." The younger Smith is wide open geographically when it comes to selecting a school and basketball program. He just wants to play the game and see his lifelong dream of playing basketball for a good college come true.

According to the elder Smith, "UC Riverside, San Jose State and UNLV" have been in the most contact.

The first day a recruit can sign a letter-of-intent is April 13.