Being tall isn’t always enough to be successful in basketball. But Tahlequah High School senior Hayden Smith (6-7, 230) has overcome the “type casting” that comes with being big and is set to have a stellar senior season for the Tigers on the court.
“I’ve always been pretty tall for my age, so my mom got me into basketball in third grade and I grew up watching my older brother Hunter play and I finally got to play with him and some of his friends that I grew up watching my freshman year, which was neat,” Smith said. “But growing up tall, coaches were happy just to put me in the paint and get me the ball down low for a layup and I wasn’t expected to really develop any other skills. But once I got to high school, I discovered that being tall wasn’t enough, so I’ve worked hard the last few years to develop a solid mid-range jump shot to become a little more athletic.”
His coach Quinn Wooldridge says that Hayden’s extra effort should produce solid results for the big guy this year.
“Hayden will anchor our defense around the rim and he provides a dominating rebounding presence,” Wooldridge said. “He’s quick on his feet around the rim and has a good touch in the paint. He’ll be the focal point of our opponents and will draw a lot of attention from college scouts.”
In addition to developing more shooting skills, Hayden feels he has also honed his abilities in the paint.
“I feel like I’m a pretty good shot blocker and even if I don’t get the block, I can alter a lot of shots,” said Smith, who averaged 15 points and eight rebounds a game last year.
As a senior leader, Hayden thinks about previous leaders he has seen and how that shapes his approach to leadership.
“I’ve seen leaders who are yellers but I just try to pick people up and help them as much as I can, not only with basketball but with grades and other off-court things, “ said Smith, who is active in FCA and the National Honor Society at Tahlequah.
Hayden has his sights set on playing college ball and has received a handful of offers so far, and once he’s in college he says he would like to study psychology in order to continue helping people.