High school boys' basketball: Woodbridge 67, Forest Park 63
Last winter, Woodbridge's Darius Smith carved out a reputation as a throwback-type point guard who was capable of executing his team's offense and distributing the basketball.
But in a key moment at Forest Park on Friday night -- with the host Bruins rallying from a 16-point deficit and the Vikings badly in need of a basket -- Smith committed a careless turnover, forcing a pass to teammate Collin Frazer that sailed out of bounds and nearly ended up on the scorer's table.
Still, Smith wasn't fazed. After Forest Park used his turnover to cut the Woodbridge lead to two, Smith converted a pair of clutch free throws that helped preserve a 67-63 win for Woodbridge.
"I didn't have any doubt that Darius was going to step up," said Woodbridge Coach Chad Anderson, whose team improved to 7-5 overall, 3-1 in the Cardinal District.
Smith has emerged as one of the Vikings' top offensive threats this season after averaging six points and four assists per game last winter for a team that often turned to Raphiael Putney (now at Massachusetts). In 12 games, Smith is averaging 14.5 points per game, second behind senior Deonte' Hallums (15.7 ppg.)
Smith, who had a team-high 20 points and made 12 of his 15 free throws against Forest Park (9-5, 2-2), has enjoyed the expanded role, though he became frustrated when he hit only 9 of 14 free throws during a 71-58 loss to Potomac on Jan. 5.
At practice the next day, Smith arrived early, grabbed a basketball from the rack and started shooting before his teammates arrived, hoping to atone for a performance that he felt was inexcusable.
"Our coach expects a lot out of us," said Smith, who caught 27 passes for 430 yards and seven touchdowns as a wide receiver this fall for Woodbridge's football team. "I should be shooting how I shot" on Friday.
Shooting isn't Smith's only strong suit. He's still that responsible point guard directing his team's offense. In the first half against Forest Park, Smith raised his left hand and initiated a set play; three passes later, teammate Darius Parson (15 points) was stationed alone behind the three-point line and easily knocked down the wide-open shot -- a direct result of Smith's court awareness and leadership.
"We have a lot of scorers," Smith said. "On any given night, anybody could be our leading scorer. Last year, I wasn't really a big scorer because we had a lot of real good shooters, but this year I just need to score, too."
Smith was at one point committed to Wheeling Jesuit, but he has decided to revisit the recruiting process. And with interest starting to pile up from George Washington, Stony Brook and Bowie State, it's easy to understand why.
"He's a college basketball player," Anderson said. "And he demonstrated why tonight."