Welcome to Rewind Wednesday, where we catch up with a former standout from Mississippi. Today we chat with ex-Vicksburg HIgh basketball player Quentin Smith. Smith was named Mr. Basketball in 1998. He signed with Mississippi State and played with the Bulldogs before transferring to Southern Miss.
RW: What are you doing these days?
QS: I have been playing ball overseas since 2001. I just finished playing in Brazil and Paraguay. I had to cut my season short because I hyper-extended my knee in the playoffs. Fortunately, I had a really good medical staff and they allowed me to come home and rehab it. I have a few offers in Argentina and Japan and I will make a decision on that in the next few weeks. (Smith lives in Dallas during the offseason)
RW: What’s it been like playing overseas all these years?
QS: I have to admit, my first time playing was in Finland and it was a culture shock. It took a while to get adjusted. I spent my entire childhood in Mississippi and even college there, so all I knew was Mississippi. I have played in 35 countries and played on every continent except Antarctica, so it’s an amazing experience. You appreciate the fact that you get to do what you love to do for a living, but you also get paid to see the world and experience things that most people just dream about. It’s truly a blessing. I am also running several camps and clinics. The first one I did was in Norway. Last year we hosted one here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I try to give back and teach kids the things I have learned and share my life experiences with them. This may be something I do after my playing career.
RW: What are your best memories from your high school days at Vicksburg?
QS: Those summers playing with my teammates and those AAU events. Going to the Above the Rim Tournament over at Provine during the summer. It was that time in your life where playing ball was all about just the fun of it. You weren’t concerned about what school you were going to or thinking about going pro. I just remember piling up in my Lumina with my teammates and going over to Jackson and playing against guys like Brian Adams (Piney Woods) and T.J. Billups (Lanier) and Shannon Long (Lanier) and those guys. We had some good people coming through. You just embrace that moment of having fun.
RW: Who were the top five guys coming through when you came through?
QS: Mario Bland (Callaway) is one that stood out. We had some pretty good one-on-one battles. Brian Adams was one of those guys I loved playing. You had Sam Funchess at Murrah. Jerod Ward (Clinton). Jerry Nichols at Lanier. There were so many. Michael DeGruy (Harrison Central) just had a knack for scoring. Tang Hamilton. Whenever we played Lanier, T.J. (Billups) and Shannon Long would give us hell.
RW: Any particular games stick out?
QS: My last game against Lanier (in the 5A semifinals). That was probably my best game, but we lost. (Smith finished with 34 points, 16 rebounds and 6 blocks). Even though it was the semifinals, we looked at it as the championship game because we had beat Clinton five times that season. It was a hard-fought game that came down to the end. I felt like we let ole Dellie (Vicksburg coach Dellie Robinson) down, but he came back and won so it worked out. I still keep in touch with some of those guys. Lanier never beat us until it actually counted. They got the one that matters. T.J. (Billups) still ribs me about having that game. He sent me a note on Facebook with a picture of his championship ring. I took a photo of my Player of the Year plaque and sent it to him.
RW: What did it mean to you to be named Player of the Year?
QS: It meant a lot. Personally, that award could have gone to so many deserving players like Brian Adams, T.J. Billups. Mario Bland. There were a lot of guys. To me it was more a reflection of my team and how hard we worked. We were pre-season No. 1 and finished No. 2. We get individual awards, but it’s still a team game. I still think that was one, if not the best team to ever come through Vicksburg. Me, Derrick Ellis, Andre Carter. We had a complete team. It’s a reflection on my team more than just me.
RW: What do you remember most about the recruiting process?
QS: It’s one of those things you can’t really prepare for. I wish I had someone to guide me through that, but nobody I was around had ever gone though that. It was borderline overwhelming, but it was an honor. I remember at school, they had to give me my own mailbox because I was getting so much mail. It was like being the new girl at school. Everybody wants you. They’ll wine you and dine you and tell what you want to hear. It’s borderline flattering. But it’s a tribute to what you have done on the court.
RW: Who did it come down to for you?
QS: It came down to Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Florida. It was real close. My mother was really sold on Vanderbilt because she was big on education. Vanderbilt was the Harvard of the South, but she was ill and dealing with breast cancer, so I wanted to stay close and Mississippi State had what I wanted to major in. So it was an easy choice.
RW: You lost your mom during your freshman year of college? How tough was that on you?
QS: It didn’t affect me until later on. I didn’t deal with it when it happened because I tried to drown my sorrows on the court and not reflect on it that much. Everybody always tells me I went through a lot because I lost my father when I was 15 and mother at 18. I finished school and graduated and continued to be as successful as possible. It’s not a tribute to me, but a tribute to them. They always instilled in me to do what I am supposed to do when I am supposed to do it. I can remember times in college when I was laying in bed and my body was sore and I didn’t feel like going to class and I could think back to my mother coming in the room and pulling the curtains back so the sun would shine in my eyes and telling me to “get up.” So no one ever had to tell me because I always knew what I was supposed to do because of what they instilled in me.
RW: How much did you learn from that?
QS: It definitely made me a stronger person. You have to rely on you. You have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and prepare yourself. It made me realize you have to cherish each day with your loved ones because you just never know. In the blink of an eye, they can be gone. You look at some of the recent tragedies that have gone on in our society. I have learned to never let a day go by without letting my loved ones know I love them. I could have stopped playing ball and stopped going to class and people probably would have understood and said ‘well he went through this and he went through that.” But that would have only been an excuse. People tend to give reasons and excuses on why they are NOT doing things, when really they should be giving an effort. Everybody has a story, something in their lives that could discourage them. But when it comes down to it, are you going to be man enough to do what you have to do? Life stops for no one. Adversity is a guarantee. It’s a matter of if you are going to rise above it or fall to it. Going through that let me know that I can go through anything.
RW: What do you want people to remember about you?
QS: I want them to say I was a guy who gave it his all when he was on the court. Ether emotional, physical or mental, he never quit. I didn’t quite have the college career that I wanted due to injuries, but I didn’t let that stop me because I knew I could play this game. I was able to play professionally, win championships and travel the world. I think it’s a testament of the human spirit. If you really want something, no matter what, you can do it. You look at the fact that I am 35 and still playing. I have to say it’s been a fun ride.