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Sand Creek's Smith is hoops standout, starting to excel in soccer
Sand Creek’s soccer team has a player who stands head and shoulders above the rest.
At 6-foot-5, senior Josh Smith is easy to spot on the field since he’s a head taller than most of the other players. What’s more unusual than his height, though, is how he ended up playing the sport for the Scorpions.
“A lot of my friends played (soccer) so I was like, ‘Why not have fun and stay in condition for basketball,’” Smith said.
Basketball was and still is Smith’s sport of choice and is likely his ticket to a college scholarship. He averaged 20.5 points and 7.3 rebounds as a junior in 2011-12 and put up 16 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest as a sophomore. Entering his senior season, he’s regarded as one of the state’s best players.
But when Smith started playing soccer as a sophomore, he had never played the sport at any level. That first season, he saw action in four games in goal and registered one assist in the field but never found a regular role.
Then Jeremy Tafoya took over as the Scorpions’ coach. Smith decided late that he wanted to give soccer another try.
“He came in a week after tryouts and said, ‘Coach, I want to play,’” said Tafoya, who admitted he was leery of Smith’s lack of soccer experience and acumen. He was intrigued enough by Smith’s athleticism, though, to give him a shot.
“I’m super happy that he came,” Tafoya said. “He’s been a real threat.”
As a junior, Smith scored nine goals and had two assists in 15 matches. Through eight matches this season, he’s registered five goals and three assists for the Scorpions, who are 6-2 after a league-opening loss to Air Academy on Thursday.
“I feel more comfortable on the field than I did,” said Smith, who credited Tafoya for the improvement. “I was a raw athlete but now I feel like I know soccer terminology and soccer moves.”
Those moves show his background in basketball.
“What he does best is he brings his basketball knowledge to the soccer field,” Tafoya said. “If you’ve seen him on the court, he has a little crossover (dribble). It’s kind of the same thing out here where he’s got a little hesitation move that beats people.
“When he’s receiving the ball with his back to the goal, the first thing that he does is post up. He tries to turn off that.”
Smith is also a threat on set-piece plays. His height and leaping ability force opponents to be wary of him heading balls, so they usually assign their tallest defender to mark him.
While his basketball skills have translated well to the soccer field, it also works the other way around. Smith said that the constant running and footwork of soccer have sharpened his basketball skills.
But for now, his focus is on soccer where Smith is aware that his stature is conspicuous.
“I don’t know that I’ve seen someone as tall as me,” Smith said. “Maybe I’ll run into him soon.”
That’s inevitable. Basketball season starts in November.