Monday, June 28, 2004

Jeremis Smith - "Big Worm"

Well. that was his nickname in early childhood. Nice article on J-Smith.

Dunbar ex likes to surprise
By Mercedes Mayer
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

DALLAS - Jeremis Smith has been amazing people in Fort Worth for some time.

From the time he was a scrawny 12-year-old wearing a size-12 shoe, to the first time he showed he could palm a ball (in fifth grade) and dunk (in sixth grade), and, finally, when he won the 2003 Class 4A state basketball MVP as a junior at Dunbar High School.

But the awe didn't seem to be there when it came time for college coaches to start calling.

"He was underrated because you just don't see that kind of warrior mentality in a guy his height going against guys consistently 6-9 and above," longtime Dunbar coach Robert Hughes said. "A player like Jeremis is usually a guy who is 6-foot-9 to 6-foot-11 and weighs about 265 pounds. He's about 6-6, and when people see him, they decide he's a tweener.

"But Jeremis can play inside with anyone, and then he can also go outside and shoot the 3 put it on the floor and make the passes."

When Smith signed with Georgia Tech last November, the decision might have seemed strange. Georgia Tech wasn't even receiving votes in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll and was picked to finish seventh out of nine teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Smith had offers from Oklahoma, Florida and Arizona.

But Georgia Tech turned into a Final Four team, losing in the national championship game to Connecticut. Smith hopes he can turn into just as good of a surprise for the Yellow Jackets.

This week in Dallas, Smith is on his final farewell tour in the Metroplex, playing for Team USA in the fifth annual Global Games at Moody Coliseum. Smith scored 17 points Sunday on the opening day as Team USA barely edged Canada 89-88. Team USA will continue its competition at 8 tonight against China, also at Moody.

"His potential is really immeasurable," Hughes said. "His only hindrance is how hard will he work, how hard will he push himself. He has all the qualifications of a guy who will push himself. It's part of his persona."

Smith is already aware of how hard he'll be working. He enrolled in summer school at Georgia Tech, which began in May, and had the chance to work out with some of his new teammates in pickup games.

"Some people view it as taking a step up, but to me, I think it's time to take a whole staircase up to get on the level that Georgia Tech is on," said Smith, who will likely play small forward or power forward in college, even though he was a center in high school.

There was no doubt Smith would eventually make a good basketball player. His father, Rick, is 6-foot-5 and his mother, Von, is 5-foot-10. Von remembers when Jeremis was born and Rick noticed his son's huge hands. Then there was the problem of small body-big foot, which earned Smith the nickname "Big Worm" because he would often trip going down the court and squirm in pain like a worm. That resulted in a trip to a doctor.

"[The doctor] said, 'There's nothing wrong with your son other than his feet are growing so rapidly and his body is not growing fast enough. Once his body grows and catches up with his feet, he'll be more balanced,' " Jeremis' mother said.

But once Smith was in ninth grade and started for Dunbar, he was taller than everyone else and began dominating his opponents. Through the past three years, Smith and Dunbar were a combined 101-6, had two state tournament appearances and won the Class 4A title in 2003.

But an early exit from the 2004 playoffs leaves Smith wanting to make a quick impression and hoping to help Georgia Tech to its second straight Final Four.

"I still have a fire burning," Smith said, "a winning sensation that I need to fulfill."

Jeremis Smith file

Position: Forward


6-6 Weight: 240

Shoe size: 16

College: Georgia Tech

Major: Computer engineering