ATHLETE OF THE WEEK 02-06-2011 SDA’s Smith develops into 1,000-point scorer

When Bria Smith entered St. Dominic Academy a little more than three years ago, she was already interested in playing basketball, but wasn’t exactly a polished product.
“I started playing basketball in seventh and eighth grade,” said Smith. “I wasn’t exactly that good of a player.”
SDA head coach Reggie Quinn believed that Smith had the potential to develop into something special. But there was a bit of a dilemma.
Standing at 5-foot-9, Smith would more than likely have to be an inside player, a forward on the high school level. She instantly became one of the tallest, if not the very tallest, of the Blue Devils.
However, Quinn had bigger plans and ideas for his incoming freshman.
“That first year, she could barely dribble the ball,” Quinn said. “But I knew that if Bria wanted to play in college, she had to play guard. She wasn’t tall enough to play forward in college. So she took on the point guard role.”
“He made me start off as a guard,” Smith said of Quinn’s idea. “He said I couldn’t be a forward; that I had to be a guard. At first, it was a little uncomfortable, but I started to get used to it.”
As it turned out, Smith pretty much became someone who played every single position.
“I had some good guards when I coached AAU (at the Jersey City Boys and Girls Club),” Quinn said. “But I didn’t have anyone who has as big as Bria. She was also very athletic. I thought we had to work on her ball handling skills a little, but I thought she could handle it. I knew Bria was a good enough player, pushing the ball up and creating shots for others. She had to reinvent herself as a player.”
Smith watched other guards play AAU basketball, girls who became Hudson County standouts like Lynea Blue and Cristina Centeno of Marist and Cassandra Callaway of Bayonne, all three of whom went on to play major college basketball. Blue is at St. Peter’s College, with Centeno at Siena and Calloway at the University of Albany.
“Bria played on the same AAU team with them and she worked out with them a lot and learned a lot from them,” Quinn said. “Her goal was to play college basketball and in her mind, she was going to do it.”
Smith has been a jack-of-all-trades since she began her career at SDA. For the last three seasons, Smith has led the Blue Devils in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. She’s earned Hudson Reporter All-Area honors in each of the last two seasons at SDA and is on her way to being a repeat honoree this season.
Last week, despite playing with a sprained knee, Smith scored the 1,000th point of her career in a win over Ferris. She became the first Blue Devil player to reach the milestone in several years.
For her efforts, Smith has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Smith said that she likes being a versatile performer on both ends of the floor, being asked to guard players who are much taller in some instances and much shorter in others.
“People always ask me what position I play and I really can’t give a definitive answer,” Smith said. “I guess it all depends on the team we’re playing. I don’t mind it. I just try to play my best wherever I’m playing. If I didn’t do it, I’d feel like I’m not doing my job for the team. But I like having the versatility to play all over. It definitely will help me in the long run.”
Smith feels like she’s become a better player this year for the Blue Devils, averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds per game.
“First of all, I’m staying out of foul trouble, which is really helping me stay on the floor longer,” Smith said. “I’m also making smarter decisions with the ball. I’ve matured more and know what I’m doing. I feel better about the way I’ve been playing.”
Smith said that she gained a lot of confidence last summer playing with a different AAU team, the Rockland Rockets, based out of New York, a team that had an extensive summer schedule, playing all over the country like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Virginia.
“It really helped me boost my game up and gave me a lot of confidence coming into this season,” Smith said. “I can play at a faster pace now and can really play better defense.”
Quinn has nothing but superlatives to say about his senior do-everything.
“To me, she’s one of the best players in the county, hands down,” Quinn said. “And she really had to learn how to do a lot of things, like handle the ball. She’s helped to reinvent our program and made us competitive once again. Teams know that when they’re playing us, they have to deal with Bria Smith and that’s not easy. Whatever it takes, Bria’s going to get there and each game, she gives everything she has.”
Quinn also loves Smith’s personality.
“She’s always smiling and always happy, even recently when she’s been hurt and couldn’t play because of the knee,” Quinn said. “From Day One, one of the things that stand out about Bria is her personality. Even through tough days, tough losses, she’s always the same happy kid. Every day is just another day.”
One might think that a player of Smith’s ability and versatility would be a shoo-in to play on the college level, but Smith really hasn’t received a lot of interest and no concrete scholarship offers. She has received some interest from Manhattan College, as well as some Division II and Division III schools, but nothing etched in stone, which is pretty remarkable.
“It’s all still open,” Quinn said.
“Part of me is a little upset by it,” Smith said. “But another part of me says that I just have to be patient. If I continue to play like I have been, something should open up for me.”
Smith would love to major in sports medicine in college.
“I want to be around sports all the time if I’m not playing,” Smith said.
Smith is amazed that she’s eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier.
“I didn’t want to know if I was close to it,” Smith said. “I didn’t want anyone to tell me. I didn’t want to think about it. The whole thing didn’t set in until the day after the game. It’s really a good feeling.”
And as for her status with the county’s elite players?
“It’s really amazing,” Smith said. “From when I first started, I didn’t think I’d ever turn out to be this good. I still can’t believe it.” – Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached at

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