Smith climbs ‘Mount Richmond’
There isn’t a wealth of size on the Tonganoxie High boys basketball roster, but when the Chieftains have faced larger, taller and bulkier front lines — as they did on Friday in a 54-43 win against Bishop Ward — they have leaned on their senior center Austin Smith to keep the THS post game relevant on both ends of the floor.
Battling 6-foot-10 Cyclones center Thomas Richmond, Smith did more than hold his own. He attacked the big man, battled him in the paint for rebounds and didn’t complain to officials when jockeying turned physical on the block.
Despite a bruising night in the paint, Smith (whose nickname is Bill because of his supposed resemblance to former UCLA and NBA big man Bill Walton) finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots while limiting Richmond to 10 points. Smith said he just tried to adjust to how the officials were calling the interior play. It worked, and he thrived inside against his larger, sturdy foe.
“Usually, in a lot of games, they would call those as fouls but if they’re not, you’ve just got to take it and do something else that will work,” he said.
Playing against a less athletic center with size 21 sneakers that he dubbed “Mount Richmond,” Smith used his speed and agility to his advantage. His coach, Shawn Phillips, said the THS pivot always plays with energy.
“Austin, he is a big-time motor guy ... He will play hard night in, night out, in practice — he never stops,” Phillips said. “Any time it’s physical, both players are probably going to get a little bit physical but I know that Bill’s going to keep working.”
Teammate Keaton Schaffer said Smith has never been one to shy away from contact in the paint.
“Bill can take it with the best of them,” Schaffer said. “I bet he’s been fouled like 100,000 times including practice.”
All those fouls must have taught Smith to keep working through contact because that’s what he did against the mountain he was responsible for keeping off the glass.
“He just kind of stands there and just leans on you,” Smith said of Richmond, “and it seems like he goes over your back a lot, but that happens.”
For Smith, who finished 5-of-14 from the floor, the only complaint he had was regarding his own shooting percentage.
“You can just move around him and it should be pretty easy to score,” he said. “I know I didn’t finish a couple of easy shots and that kind of made me mad.”
Scholar athlete of the month
Tonganoxie High senior Austin Smith has been named the Hy-Vee High School Scholar Athlete of the Month by Sunflower Broadband Channel 6. Tune in to 6 News on Thursday at 6 or 10 p.m. for the story.