FRENCH SETTLEMENT – French Settlement girls basketball coach Daniel Martin admits it – he didn’t care for Serenity Smith as a player too much when his daughter, Dannah, played against her when the two were coming up in the AAU ranks as youngsters.
If that sounds kind of strange coming from the guy who is currently Smith’s high school coach, there’s a reason for it.
“Jokingly saying that about not liking her are the things you like about her as a player,” Martin said. “You like the gritty and the toughness and the physical play. You like the way she’s willing to play any position on the floor. The players that you don’t like that you’re coaching against are the players that you want on your team.”
Smith, a senior, will take that style of play to Kentucky Christian, an NAIA school located in Grayson, Ky., after signing Nov. 6 with the program during a ceremony at FSHS.
“I’m used to it,” Smith said of being ‘that’ player for the Lady Lions. “A lot of people don’t like me when they play against me. I seem to be always the one that they kind of poke the bear or something like that. When I was younger, I would feed into it, but I’ve kind of learned now that I’m older that there’s a reason they’re doing that to you. With Coach Daniel, actually, that’s kind of complement to me because I know that he believes in me and is very confident in my abilities, so it makes me more confident.”
Smith said her style of play comes from a mindset she developed during her career.
“When I was younger, my dad (Gene) always told me, ‘It doesn’t matter what you do, when you step on that court, you’re the best,’” she said. “I know I’m not the best, but in that mindset, you have to get to the point where, ‘They’re not getting this ball. I am.’ So I’ve kind of built that mentality up around that aspect of when I step on the floor, I’m getting the ball, and stuff like that, it just gets your adrenaline going, gets you confidence going, and it helps me be more of that nitty-gritty type of player.”
Smith has played every position for French Settlement and will make the move to point guard – a position she’d never played until this summer in AAU ball -- for the Lady Lions this season.
“I’m just excited to be able to be the one that’s leading everybody and telling everybody what offenses to go (into) and stuff like that,” she said. “It just gives me another aspect of the game to think about. I never thought about you have to know what defense they’re in to run the play and all this different kind of stuff. I’m just super excited now. I wasn’t earlier, but I am now.”
During the signing ceremony, Smith’s mom, Jan, made a video call to Lady Knights coach Dr. Lisa Conn, which caught the signee off guard a bit. By chance, Conn happened to be watching film of Smith in action at the time of the call.
“I guess that’s why she was watching film right then, just to see (where) my strengths and weaknesses (are) at,” Smith said. “I’m just willing to play whatever role that I need to play on the team. I’m just super excited to get whatever they give me and I’m ready to work for whatever I need to work for.”
Martin said Smith’s versatility can only help her in college.
“Playing different positions, she understands different positions,” Martin said. “At the next level, she’s going to play a guard for sure, so as a guard, you need to understand where the posts want the basketball and where the guards like to receive the ball to shoot the basketball, and what’s a good spot to get somebody the basketball in, so she’s got a good understanding of that."
Smith said she’s looking forward to combining her faith, basketball and a love of meeting new people at Kentucky Christian.
“I’m feeling very accomplished because I’ve always dreamed about this day, and ever since I was little I knew this is what I want to do and this is what I have to do to get, and I kept working,” she said. “Now that I’ve gotten here, I just feel like it’s going to continuously (be) work, but it’s going to be in a different way to just make sure that I’ve fulfilled what I wanted to do. It’s a big opportunity for me, and I can’t wait to experience it.”