Grayson boys basketball coach Geoffrey Pierce had a date lined up to watch the 2015-16 Couch Middle School boys play, but he moved it up at the suggestion of one of his high school team’s parents.
The reason — eighth-grade point guard Deivon Smith.
Smith hardly stood out walking the halls at Couch Middle, but he was hard to miss on the basketball court.
“I was like 5-3,” Smith said. “I was super small.”
The lack of height didn’t bother Pierce. He saw a future star in Smith, who grew to become the Daily Post’s 2019-20 Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“They were playing Richards, and he was the smallest guy on the court,” Pierce said of the first time he saw Smith play. “But you could just see back then his willingness to help his teammates and his desire to win. They lost the game and it hurt him. Immediately after the game I talked to him, and we’ve had him in the gym ever since then.”
Smith is 6-foot now, but his height never slowed him down earlier in his high school career. He guesses he was maybe 5-4 or 5-5 as a freshman, then 5-8 as a sophomore.
His athletic ability and strength made up for it, allowing him to play right away for the Rams.
“(Smith) plays way bigger than his size, he always has,” Pierce said. “He’s always been a real good rebounder. He led us rebounding as a junior and was second this year behind (post) Ian (Schieffelin). He protects the rim like a big.”
Those skills made him a force for the Rams and a coveted recruit who ranks No. 52 nationally by 247Sports.com. He signed with Mississippi State after taking other visits to Louisville, Miami (Fla.) and N.C. State. The recruiting attention grew as he grew physically — Old Dominion was the first to offer at the end of his sophomore year and Florida was his first high major offer at the beginning of his junior season. He finished with nearly 35 offers.
Pierce expects his point guard to thrive in the Southeastern Conference.
“I think he’s going to excel,” Pierce said. “Nowadays with guards being volume scorers, where everybody scores at a high clip, he’s capable of doing that, too. But I think what will get him on the floor is he can run a team and make those players around him better.”
Smith’s statistics show his involvement in areas other than scoring.
He was a first-team, all-county selection as a junior when he averaged 17.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 2 steals and 2.1 blocks. He followed that up this season by averaging 17.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 3.5 steals and 1.2 blocks as the nationally ranked Rams reached the Class AAAAAAA finals, where they were upset by Wheeler.
“I feel like it was a good run overall,” Smith said. “We still made history regardless, so I feel like it was a great season for all of us individually and for Coach Pierce. I feel like it made Grayson a basketball school for sure. They’ll finally get a national schedule for sure.”
Pierce praised Smith for the huge role he played in getting Grayson to its current level. He has been at the center of the Rams’ most successful era in program history the past four seasons.
“Deivon’s a winner,” Pierce said. “He graduates with three (state) Final Fours. I think the thing that makes him special, the thing people take for granted, is how he can dominate a game without having to take many shots. That’s tough to do for a guard. And he works very hard on his game. He’s always in the gym working on things he can improve on. He’s a real good kid, too.”