Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

January 24, 2013

A dynamic duo

Smith and Lewis leading the way for Valdosta this season

VALDOSTA — Clarence Smith and Rashad Lewis can score the basketball. And so far this season, the duo is proving that point.

Smith and Lewis are combining for 62 percent of the points this season for the 10th-ranked Valdosta Wildcats, who enter Saturday’s game against crosstown rival Lowndes with a 15-4 overall record, and a perfect 8-0 record in Region 1-AAAAAA.

“It is a great tool to have,” said head coach Antonio Haynes, the reigning Region 1 Coach of the Year. “Those guys have scored a lot of points for us. They are playing well. But I also say they need to credit the guys around them.”

Whether inside or outside, Smith and Lewis can hurt opponents. With Lewis, a junior, running the point for the Wildcats, he is able to run Haynes’ system and has the ability to distribute the ball to wide-open players like Smith, who rarely misses from outside, or score, which is perfectly OK with him.

“When Clarence is hitting, he is hitting,” Lewis said. “Whoever is hitting, we get them the ball. It is a total team-effort.”

After helping lead the Wildcats to the Region 1-AAAAA championship last season, Smith and Lewis have elevated their games to even higher levels this season, especially in region play.

Through the first 19 games this season, both players are averaging well above their season averages from a year ago. In fact, Lewis leads the Wildcats in scoring this year with 24 points per game, twice the amount he averaged per game last year, aided by a strong 37-point performance against Colquitt County on Tuesday night.

Smith, a senior, who also played safety for the Wildcat football team this season, is averaging 23 points per game, some five points higher than last year.

“When people look up to you, you have to come out and play good every night,” said Smith, who scored a personal season-high 33 points in Valdosta’s 81-79 win over Johnson (Savannah) in December. “If you play good, the team will play good. They just feed off of the energy.”

A major factor in their improved scoring numbers this season is their work ethic, according to Haynes.

“I tell them preparation is the key; it is how you prepare,” Haynes said. “They had a great summer. (Clarence) and Rashad had wonderful summers. We got out and went to Florida, Georgia Tech. I think it was just the culmination of them playing hard this summer and getting a lot of work in and the experience from last year. It is all kicking in together.”

With the play of Smith and Lewis, the Wildcats have quickly re-entered — as if they ever really left — the talk of being a serious contender for the state championship this season.

More importantly, as of right now, the Wildcats are off to one of the best starts to a region schedule in school-history. Through the first eight games, the Wildcats are a perfect 8-0 in region play, something the 2009-10 Final Four team at VHS didn’t accomplish.

“As we get deeper into region, the competition gets tougher and tougher,” Lewis said. “We have Tifton back-to-back; we haven’t played them yet.”

Added Smith: “Tifton has a transfer and they have all the hype going on, and Valdosta is not really known for basketball. So I think people look past us. I think, in the next few years, we will show that we really can play basketball at Valdosta.”

Last year, the Wildcats, then off an appearance in the Final Four, won the region championship, beating Tift County 66-65 in the championship game.

That championship win, and an appearance in the Sweet 16, set the precedent for future Wildcat teams under Haynes.

“Last year was a standard for this year,” Smith said. “Everything we did last year, we want to do this year, but better.”

Better? How much better is the question.

If one were to ask Smith and Lewis, a state championship would be the answer.

“I think we have the right parts,” Smith said. “We play as a team. We don’t have many individuals. We can make it real far this year.”

“Coach always brags about us being blue-collar workers,” Lewis added. “Like Clarence said, we just play as a team and keep our heads on right and show up to work every night, like we have been able to do. I think we can make quite a nice run to the title.”

Along with the scoring ability of Smith and Lewis, a key to the Wildcats’ success this year is their ability to mesh off the court, says Smith.

“Some teams might be fine on the court, but we are good on and off the court,” Smith said. “We hang out, we go to restaurants. We have fun.”

Both players admit that the addition of Haynes has helped the Wildcat program continue to develop. More importantly, Haynes’ addition has also helped with their personal development.

“Coach has done a lot for the team,” Lewis said. “It is just like coach Rufus McDuffie, the previous head coach. Coach Haynes does the same thing, so it was just a transition. Coach Haynes has taught me a lot. Even during the games, he is telling me things and certain situations and what to do here and there.”

Off the court, Smith and Lewis are both top-notch students. Smith currently holds a 3.5 grade-point average, while Lewis is taking an extra academic elective to earn a 3.0 by the end of his junior year.

“I think that is the best feeling ever, for a coach,” Haynes said. “You don’t have to worry about the guys’ grades. Like Clarence, he is a 3.5. It is good to have that security where they can go to college and have a future and maybe get a free degree.”

With the ability to play at a high-level on the court and the ability to get it done off the court, in particular the classroom, both players have positioned themselves to play basketball at the next-level and beyond, which is exactly the goal.

“I just want to continue playing basketball, wherever it takes me,” Lewis said. “My goal is to play basketball at a Division I school and continue my career.”

“I want to play basketball at a Division I level and maybe go to the pros, the NBA, one day,” added Smith.

Text Only
Local Sports
  • 0728-Lowndes practice4.jpg Vikings working out with padded practice, scrimmage on the horizon

    The look was familiar Monday at Martin Stadium.
    The Lowndes High football team’s conditioning practice was essentially a duplicate of the workouts the Vikings have completed throughout the summer.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Thomasville_Ryals.jpg South Georgia special for high school coaches

    Phillip Johnson remembers when he had a “Wizard of Oz” moment.
    The North Carolina native moved to Georgia when he was 26 and Johnson, now Lanier County’s second-year head coach, recalls a 7-on-7 tournament leading to the realization that he wasn’t in Kansas — or in his case, North Carolina — anymore.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Nolin settling in as new VSU soccer coach

    Meet Rebecca Nolin, VSU's new soccer coach.

    July 28, 2014

  • Induction Crowd: Honorees were genuine, down to earth

    More than 48,000 people gathered under the scorching sun at The Clark Sports Center for the 75th National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Sunday, including one woman who carpooled to the event with more than 40 other people.

    July 28, 2014

  • Braves trio all business at inductions

    The Braves seemed almost businesslike in their approach -- something you might expect from a trio that won so consistently.
    Managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa also remained calm and collected throughout their addresses.
    Frank Thomas took care of the emotional side, his voice breaking and his eyes moist during a heartfelt speech Sunday at the Clark Sports Center.

    July 28, 2014

  • Cooperstown Merchants: Weekend was a success

    Cooperstown merchants are elated about the exceptionally prosperous Hall of Fame Induction Weekend, several storekeepers said Sunday.

    During an afternoon lull in business, when the National Baseball Hall of Fame's induction ceremony was taking place, area shop and restaurant owners took a quick breath, reflected and expressed satisfaction with their sales for the weekend.

    July 28, 2014

  • Hall of Famers thank fathers for stepping up to the plate

    Great ballplayers thanking their dads at a Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is about as original as oil and vinegar are to an Italian restaurant.

    July 28, 2014

  • Hall_Maddux.jpg Hall of Braves

    The weird part was that Jeff Idelson didn't take a lot of time to answer.
    "Is there any word or description that unifies this class?" was the query posed to the National Baseball Hall of Fame's president.
    "The common thread among the six is profound humility," Idelson said of former managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, and former players Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, all of whom will be inducted into the Hall today. "I don't think I realized that fully until I spent time with them in December. It was uncanny to me, for the cumulative star power in that group, the humility among them. I think that's felt really strongly with baseball fans."

    July 27, 2014 2 Photos 1 Story

  • Hall_Cox.jpg Cox’s willingness to defend players stands out to local coaches

    Bobby Cox will be able to add Hall of Famer to his resume when he is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame today in Cooperstown, N.Y.
    But the former Atlanta Braves manager’s legacy will remain the same to area baseball coaches: his willingness to defend his players.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • Valwood_Henderson.jpg Area teams hoping to get over the hump

    Past successes lead to present and future expectations.
    That’s the task faced by pretty much all 12 area high school football coaches present Saturday at In The Game Magazine’s South Georgia Football media day at the Holiday Inn conference center.
    It’s a task that also has the elite group searching for answers as to how to get past the state championship road block in recent years, aside from Valwood’s GISA Class AA crown in 2012.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

Blazers Blog