Ike Smith’s worst nightmare came to life last season when he went down with a back injury in the tenth game of his senior campaign. This season is all about health and redemption for the 6-foot-4 guard.
The extent of his injury was not known at the time, but it would turn out to be a season-ending disservice requiring surgery and extensive physical therapy.
“It was a tough process,” he said. “It was for the best. Because I’m a competitor, I wanted to be out there with my teammates.”
Before his injury, Smith was averaging about 15 points per game and scored in double digits in eight of his ten game appearances.
“It’s going to be a long season,” he said. “The main thing, with me, is just to stay healthy and be here the whole time to help my team.”
The basketball team refers to Smith as an ‘old soul’ and assistant coach Jon Cremins says that what you see is what you get when it comes to him.
In high school, he was really passionate about football and was a quarterback for his school’s team. He only did basketball for fun but little did he know that this hobby would be the path to an education and experiences he would never forget.
Eventually, he got sick of being injured all the time due to the brutal nature of the sport, and he turned his time to the basketball gym and fell in love with it at the age of 14.
He started working to catch up with his peers who had a leg up with years of experience under their built. He had the size, but not the skill set yet.
He was overlooked by many schools at first and did not start being recruited until he started playing for the Adidas Florida Elite circuit team. His numbers started to soar and received several offers from Sun Belt schools and others including Tennessee Tech and smaller Division I schools.
Smith, a native of Gainesville, Florida, averaged about 18 points and eight rebounds per game his senior year and was named to the First-Team All-State. He was County Player of the Year and committed to GS because of how similar Statesboro is to Gainesville.
He has never been away from the college-town atmosphere and he went from looking at Gators to Eagles every step he took.
After a positive season filled with a few hiccups, The GS basketball program decided to take a chance and file for a medical hardship waiver in the spring.
He was granted access to play one more season and he was overjoyed when he heard the news because he felt like he had some unfinished business in Hanner Fieldhouse.
Head Coach Mark Byington admits that losing him took a hit to the team’s morale at first, but it allowed some of the freshmen to get more minutes in his absence.
“When we lose an All-Conference player, that’s a big blow for the team because he was playing well before he got hurt,” Byington said.
Amanda Arnold, The George-Anne Sports Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org