June 27, 2011

Smith makes the call

Kevin McCarthy

Although Rodriguez High’s Bernard Smith is moving just 40 miles for his evolution from high school to college, it’s a change in worlds and one he’s looking forward to embracing.

photo of Bernard Smith

The 6-foot-6 Smith has accepted a scholarship from Coach Pat Fuscaldo and Sonoma State University (SSU) in Rohnert Park. This after averaging a double-double, 10.4 points and 10.3 rebounds respectively during high school play, while also bringing power, strength and positivity to Coach Joe Fuca’s top Lakeshow squad.

So why SSU? "It’s secluded and away from things so I can focus on school and basketball," Smith explained. "I liked the coaches and the players -- it all felt very team-oriented where the guys do what it takes for the team to win."

The latter approach is Smith’s method of operation -- albeit not something patentable -- but he absolutely personifies it.

Asked about his best moment on the court to date, he said, "We were playing Bethel High, down by 15 points in the fourth quarter but came back to beat them. We all played a huge part in the comeback, doing it as a team, a unit, and that made it even more satisfying."

Here’s Fuca on his latest player signee: "B.J. Smith is one of the happiest kids I have ever coached. He has a quality about him that seems to glow when he is around the basketball court. .BJ. loves to rebound and go get the ball. He averaged double-doubles for us last summer and he was a big factor in helping us win the Adidas 3 Stripes tourney last July. B.J. was really peaking at the right time last spring and early summer before he had a very bad ankle injury that took him out of the big Vegas and LA trips in July. He is a true team player and loves to perform under pressure. B.J. can shoot the mid-range jumper with confidence and loves to defend the other best big man other teams."

Asked what he sees himself bringing to the Seawolves, Smith replied: "#1 is hard work, plus toughness. I have a desire to rebound, it’s what I want to do." SSU was a minus four in overall rebounding last season so the addition of a force on the boards will help close that deficit. Plus, Sonoma State’s leading rebounder Matthew French, has graduated.

What’s interesting is that it’s pretty much been basketball as the sole sport for Smith. As he put it, "Baseball is too boring and my Mom wouldn’t let me play football -- she was afraid I would get hurt." There are plenty of Rodriguez High football opponents thankful for such a parental decision.

He already has an academic direction picked out, one not often selected by student-athletes. "I’m going to major in journalism. I have a passion for writing and have been doing it for a while."

Smith wished to thank "God -- my saviour, my parents, brothers and sister, Coach Fuca and all the other coaches who helped me."

SSU plays in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, which also features regional members Cal State East Bay, Cal State Stanislaus and Cal State Monterey Bay, Humboldt State, San Francisco State as well as colleges in southern California.