The Tupper Tigers had 8.7 seconds to secure their seat at the B.C. AAA championship. Down one point and defending in their own end, Daniel Kim looked to foul on an inbound play but instead stole the ball. He hurtled the outlet pass to Cameron Smythe on the sideline who passed it back to the guard and cut toward the basket for a give-and-go.
Smythe caught the ball inside the three-point line amid two defenders. His back to the key, he dribbled once, twice, spun around and released the jump shot as the buzzer blared. Swish. The Tigers won 61-60.
I went blank after the shot went up, said Smythe this week. I remember shooting. After that, all I remember is people yelling and screaming.
The spectators at least a generation older than Tuppers teens added one name to the din: Christian Laettner.
Smythe hasnt seen The Shot, the one LaettnerThat guy from Duke?nailed in 1992 to bring the Blue Devils their second consecutive NCAA championship and which is widely considered the most famous in college basketball history. He hasnt seen it, but Smythe hit one of his own storied jumpers to send the Tigers to provincials for the third consecutive year and its unforgettable.
Finger-tip to finger-tip, Smythe is as long as he is tall. The face of basketball in East Van is a hair beneath seven feet in length and height. A perennial candidate for tournament all-star and best defender accolades, Smythe, who is known to his friends as Cam and is named for a hockey player named Neely who spent too little time in Vancouver, pulled in a triple double Tuesday in the opening round of the B.C. AAA tournament. He had 41 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in the 83-71 victory over Quesnels Correlieu.
He averaged 31 points a game in the regular season and 26.4 in 10 playoff games so far. He was good from the line 65 per cent of the time.
He has perfect shooting mechanics, said his high school and one-time B.C. Team coach Jeff Gourley. The way he can run the floor for a seven-footer is remarkable.
But at 190 pounds, the lean Smythe, who in his Grade 11 year was compared to the stalk that made Jack famous, knows he has some growing to do.
Scouts agree, as does his coach.
Theyre looking at Cameron in the United States and they are saying he is in the top 10 percentile in skill. He is in the bottom 10 percentile in body, said Gourley.
Smythe, who is being courted by universities in both the CIS and NCAA, is considering taking a year to develop at a prep school before committing to any college basketball program.
It definitely would be beneficial, he said. It helps with my studies too and learning about how to handle university courses.
Manroop Clair opted out of Grade 12 at Burnaby South to play at a U.S. prep school.
Cam will probably go to the NCAA, but not this year, said Gourley. The situation now is that an NCAA Division 1 school has no interest whatsoever in getting boys in their program. They want men. Unless you are one-and-done, they dont want to see you.
Either way, Smythe has yet to make a decision.
His father says the choice is his, but as a family theyre doing their research. They visit campuses and travel to tournaments where scouts linger, like an annual invitational in Las Vegas this summer where Tariq Sbiet saw him play with the provincial team.
Sbiet, a national scout with Canadas North Pole Hoops, said Smythe will be an addition to a CIS or NCAA program but a year developing as a fifth-year senior will pay dividends.
With his size, its a very rare commodity. Hes big, hes long and hes got a pretty nice touch. From the elbow, he can hit the jumper, he told the Courier over the phone while at a high school basketball showcase in Nova Scotia.
In terms of Cam specifically, I think a prep year would benefit him but it also depends on the prep school. They really focus on physicality. [A player] might have the skill set but they just might not be ready physically, and in Cams situation, thats the case. If he can add some muscle mass over the year, I think it will improve his player stock.
Preparatory schools are an expanding business in the U.S. and increasingly in Southern Ontario. Longtime, established and reputable schools such as St. Benedicts, Cushing Academy, Oak Hill Academy and the newer Findlay Prep in Las Vegas operate amid a swill of, as one warning cautions, puppy mills for college prospects. All are immersed in basketball. A Toronto Star reporter estimated roughly 100 high school players, most from the GTA, left Canada in 2010 to join programs south of the border they believed upped their chances of a college scholarship and even a professional career.
Smythe, who describes his style as defensive, smart and long, aspires to play for the Canadian national team and knows he has a lot of growing ahead of him. His love of the game keeps him on the court. I can do it with friends, I can shoot around in my backyard by myself, I can shoot at the gym. You just need shoes and a ball. I like to play.
As for being one of Canadas top prospects? That helps.
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