Acadia hoopster in final quarter of five-year Acadia career

John Decoste
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Published on January 25, 2016

Shaquille Smith sinks a basket for the Axemen. The hoops player is nearing the end of his Acadia career.

Published on January 25, 2016

Shaquille Smith

Published on November 29, 2015

Their ability to shoot three-pointers might be a big reaspn the basketball Axemen win, but fifth-year swingman Shaquille Smith from North Preston, N.S is their offensive spark. Smith had 15 points, four rebounds, five assists and three steals in helping the Axemen defeat UPEI 96-87 Nov. 28 in Wolfville. It was the first regular season loss for the 5-1 Panthers, while Acadia improved to 4-2.

Published on November 28, 2014

Axeman Shaquille Smith had 15 points in Acadia's Nov. 27 loss to the Huskies.

Published on October 06, 2014

North Preston native Shaquille Smith led all scorers with 27 points in Acadia's 99-74 win over the Crandall Chargers Oct. 4 in Wolfville. Smith, formerly of Auburn Drive High School, is in his fourth season with the Axemen.

Published on November 21, 2014

Shaquille Smith had a game-high 23 points and seven rebounds for the baskewtball Axemen in an 85-68 win over the Cape Breton Capers Nov. 21 in Wolfville. The four-point victory improved Acadia's regular season record to 2-3.

WOLFVILLE - When parents name their newborn son Shaquille, it’s likely with a good degree of hope that he might grow up to be a basketball player.

For North Preston native Shaquille Smith, hope became reality. He’s currently in his fifth and final year with the Acadia men’s basketball team.

“My parents were both big basketball fans, and my mom in particular was a big Lakers fan,” says the 22-year-old. “I was named for Shaquille O’Neal, and they really had no idea I would become a basketball player.”

In fact, until he was in Grade 10, Smith was primarily a baseball player – specifically, a left-handed pitcher – but also played basketball at Auburn Drive High School.

“The last game I ever pitched, I think I had 15 strikeouts,” he recalls.

He switched to basketball full-time when he made the Nova Scotia Canada Games team for the 2009 Games in P.E.I.

“We ended up winning the silver medal, and I haven’t played baseball since. Sometimes I miss it, but I believe I made the right choice,” he said.


At Acadia

The six-foot-three guard with great jumping ability was recruited to Acadia by then-Axemen head coach Steve Baur in the summer of 2011.

“I came up here for a recruiting trip, and I fell in love with the school, the town and the basketball program. I knew right away it was the right place for me.”

Smith has played a number of positions for the Axemen – “I’ve been a two guard, a three guard, and even played forward at times when we had injuries,” he says – but in the last couple of years, he settled into the ‘swing’ position, part forward and part guard. He is equally comfortable driving to the basket, shooting from the outside, or under the basket battling for rebounds, which is what makes him such a versatile - and valuable - player.

Smith will leave Acadia in May with a cartload of memories, including winning an AUS championship in his rookie year and competing at CIS nationals in both 2012 and 2013.

 “The Axewomen won in 2012, too. It was a great year,” he adds.

He averaged 10.6 points per game in 2013-2014, starting in eight games. Last season, he started all 20 regular season games, averaging 15.1 points per game. So far this season, he started all 12 games and his average as of Jan. 21 was 15.9.

That doesn’t account for the energy Smith brings to the Axemen lineup. He drives the Axemen both on offence and defence, and is among the team leaders in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.


Good memories

“It’s tough to narrow it down to one. There have been so many memories – close games, and buzzer-beaters,” some of which have been supplied by him.

He has been fortunate to have A.J. Simmonds as a teammate, first at Auburn and for the past four seasons at Acadia.

“We’ve been lifelong friends. When I came here, I already knew A.J. was coming, too. We share a lot of the same values and goals. It’s great to have one friend who’s always there for you. I expect we’ll be friends for life,” he said.

The Axemen “had some adversity thrown at us” with some early-season injuries. “You have to know how to adapt, and realize not everything is going to go your way all the time. You have to play together as a team, and we’ve done that.”

As a result, the Axemen are in the thick of things in the AUBC with a 7-5 record, good for 18 points, entering play Jan. 22.

“We have a lot of weapons on our team, and we’re a selfless group. There are obviously guys who could score more, but we don’t care who gets the credit as long as we’re able to win,” he said.

Smith has had a satisfying career, but counts this season as his best so far.

“It’s fun playing,” he said. “We preach that to ourselves – control what we’re able to control, and have fun with the game. It shouldn’t feel like a job.”


Looking ahead

Smith is scheduled to graduate in May with a business degree, on the schedule he set for himself.

“I planned all along to be here five years, and to play five years. Getting the business degree has been a dream of mine since I started here,” he said.

As for the future, right now, Smith said he is weighing his options.

“I may continue to play, maybe overseas – any opportunity that presents itself,” he said. “I may get a job, as a project manager, maybe, or a business consultant. And I may take a year off. I’ve been in school for 18 years. Maybe it’s time for a break.”

Along with the academics and athletics, Smith has also sampled the community service aspect of being an Acadia student-athlete.

“I did the SMILE program last semester. I’ve done school talks, and helped out with coaching youth basketball,” he said.

“I wish I could have done more, but I don’t want to do something unless I can fully commit to it. I love volunteering. I have more fun than the kids do.”


At a glance:

Shaquille Smith has been a valuable – and versatile – member of the Acadia basketball Axemen the past five seasons. A full-time starter the past two seasons, he is a dynamic player both on offence and defence, and is among the team leaders in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. In particular, his athleticism makes him an effective rebounder for his size, at both ends of the court and a tenacious defender. He is an Axemen co-captain for 2015-2016.

Organizations: Lakers, Auburn Drive High School

Geographic location: Acadia, North Preston, P.E.I.

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