Jasmine Smith is the floor leader for a No. 4 Poly girls basketball team determined to bring home a state championship after falling in the Class 4A title game last season and the semifinals the previous year.
Now in Class 3A, the Baltimore City Division I champion Engineers are scheduled to host No. 7 City in Thursday's East Section I final.
The 5-foot-6 point guard, who plays for the Maryland Lady Shooting Stars Amateur Athletic Union team, averages 5.7 points, 3.2 assists and 3.2 steals per game for the Engineers (22-1), with season highs of 13 points and six assists.
Although she is considering several college basketball programs Smith, who has a 3.69 GPA and plans to become a veterinarian, also wants to attend a school that has a strong biology program.
How did you get started playing basketball?
I've always been around the sport because my father and my brother both went to college for basketball and it's just been a natural thing. I started when I was 4 and I haven't looked back.
What's your first memory of basketball?
First memory is probably in Pikesville fall league. That was my first time playing and it was a fun experience. That's when I first met Dionna (Milford Mill's Dionna White). Teira (Poly teammate Teira Pendleton) played too in the same league but we weren't on the same team. I just remember I got into that league because I played soccer for Pikesville as well and they asked me to play basketball.
Were you always a floor leader?
When I started off with the Cougars, I was the point guard. That was really my role when I was about 9, and then when Dada [City guard Dyzhanay Burton] came to our team, we split the position and I was more so becoming the 2 [guard]. It wasn't until here in high school that I became the definite point guard.
What do you like about being the point guard?
I like being the person that I guess everybody has to look up to for everything to get settled and the play to get underway. I know I get yelled at a lot if I don't call the play.
Did basketball figure into your decision to come to Poly?
A little, yes. It was more academic than anything, because I do want to major in biology, but basketball was just the plus side because I know coach [Kendall Peace-Able] because she taught my brother. We had played a few AAU games at Poly, and she knew who I was, so it was cool to already know what I was getting myself into.
What's your favorite part of the game?
I guess tip-off. It's like tip off is when all the nerves I may have had leading up to the game kind of go away and I get a little bit more calm, just being in my element.
How has making the two previous trips to states helped the team this season?
We've basically got the entire team back, so that experience is going to factor a lot into these upcoming playoff games, because we know what we have to do in order to win. We don't like to be in that place we've been in two years in a row. It's definitely something we have to work for but we think we can get it done.
What will it be like to play City a third time?
This is probably going to be hardest game, because they know everything that we do and we know everything that they're doing, so we're basically trying to prepare to try something new. It's going to be scrappy. City's not a bad team, and we have to come out like we did [in the 68-47 win over No. 7 City in the division final]. They're not going to bow down at all. They want to win as much as we do.
What are you enjoying most about these last days of your high school basketball career?
Right now I'm enjoying my teammates, having fun with my teammates. I really have developed strong bonds with a lot of the people, even some of the new players that are on the team. We're just one family right now, and I'm going to really miss that.
Why did you decide to play soccer for Poly as a junior?
I wanted to play as soon as I came to Poly. I played forward, so running up and down on our fields, it's kind of dangerous, because the grass is so patchy. My father wouldn't let me play, and it took until my junior year for my mother to get on my side and actually say, '"She can play." When I told my father I wasn't going to play forward, I was going to be goalie, he said it was cool.
Who do you look up to?
Definitely my mom. We've been through a few struggles the last few years with her losing her mother and my father losing his mother within six months. She's been a very strong person for everybody in the family and to see her not only keep herself going, but to keep the rest of us going, it makes me really admire her and her strength. I just hope I can be the same way when I'm her age.