Ja’Vonte Smart admitted he was excited about being selected as the Gatorade Louisiana Boys Basketball Player of the Year. But that does not mean the Scotlandville sophomore is satisfied.
“It’s really special to win an award like this,” Smart said. “Not many people get a chance to win an award like this. I feel so blessed, and I thank God for the opportunity.
“But I still feel like I can do a lot better for my team. Not winning the state title is going to stay with me, and it’s going to make me work harder.”
The Gatorade award was announced Thursday morning in a news release. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Smart is the first Scotlandville player to win Gatorade’s Louisiana award. He is the second Baton Rouge athlete to win a Gatorade award this year, joining Zachary quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr., an LSU signee, who won the Gatorade football honor after leading the Broncos to the Class 5A state title last fall.
Smart led the Hornets to their seventh straight appearance in the Class 5A title game. Natchitoches Central beat Scotlandville 54-52 in the title game played last week in Lake Charles.
Smart is now eligible to win the national Gatorade award that will be announced later this month. Last year’s Gatorade winner, University High’s Wayde Sims, also was among the players considered for the award.
“When I told (Smart) about, (Gatorade award), he was humble,” Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample said. “That’s just the kind of kid he is. We got together with the team in the locker room. They were all excited and happy for him.
“Ja’Vonte thanked them and told them he was sorry. He felt like he should have done more to help us win a state title. Now I don’t think that’s the case. He puts the team first.”
Smart is considered be one of the nation’s top five prospects for 2018. He also is rated the top point guard in the class of 2018, according to 247Sports.com. He averaged 22.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.2 steals for the Hornets (34-3). Smart made 49.3 percent of his shots from the field, including 44.5 percent of 3-pointers. He also made 80.6 percent of his free throws.
After leading Scotlandville to a 5A state title as a freshman, Smart was a member of the USA Basketball Under-16 team that won the FIBA Americas title. He averaged 6.8 points and 4.2 rebounds for the USA U16 team and is scheduled to compete for the U17 team this summer.
Smart, who maintains a 3.1 grade-point average in Scotlandville’s engineering magnet program, is part of the school’s engineering club and serves as a mentor for younger basketball players in the Baton Rouge area.
“To have a player from our program win this award means a lot,” Sample said. “This award that is about basketball and academics speaks well for our school and what we try to do here academically and athletically.”
For Smart, the focus is already on next season.
“This season is something I’m learning from,” Smart said. “Bringing my ‘A game every night … that’s what I have to do.”