Canada will enter the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship as a legitimate podium contender and Stefan Smith is hoping to use the chip on his shoulder – and a game patterned after a gritty NBA star – to gain a spot on the team.
Smith is putting together a great season at Bill Crothers as the leader of a young team which has not been able to win a lot of games but has gained a lot of experience.
And Smith is in the middle of that. He started the season by hitting a game winning three at the buzzer to beat Thetford. And the Ajax native hasn’t stopped.
He dropped 32 points on Athlete Institute on February 9 but just missed out on getting a victory, losing a heart-breaker 88-86 at home.
“I’m taking a big leadership role on our team. Making sure our team is in the best position to try and win games,” Smith said.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the 16-year-old draws comparisons to Toronto Raptors star guard Kyle Lowry, especially since Smith looks up to the All-Star playmaker.
“I model my game after Kyle Lowry. He’s a very gritty point guard, tough, can shoot the rock. He’s a great leader. He shows a lot of passion in the game. That’s one of the big comparisons between me and him. I love basketball, I love the game. I just show that on the court.”
There’s a lot of grit and determination in Smith’s game – to go with his understanding of the game, court vision, excellent handle, strong passing skills and scoring and shooting abilities.
There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that have already been put in to get him to this level.
“I just want to work hard and want to be great at what I do. Obviously I had to step up my game and put in the work that other people are not doing.”
While Smith still has the playoffs to look forward to this season, there’s another big goal this summer. And that’s to make the Canadian team for the U17 Worlds in Spain.
Smith did play in the Biostell All-Canadian All-Star Game last April, but he was not considered for the Canadian national team that played at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship last summer.
That only added fuel to Smith’s fire.
“I always have a chip on my shoulder because Canada and Ontario never really knew about me, never gave any interest in me. It’s just a result of my hard work. When I’m on the court I just prove that I’m the best player on the court.”
We’ll see in a few months if that gets him a spot on his way to Spain for the U17 Worlds.