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Audenried sophomore Shayla Smith putting up big numbers

12/10/2022, 11:00pm EST
By Liam O'Murchu

Liam O’Murchu (@Liam_0__)

The Shayla Smith show came to northern Virginia on Saturday morning as Audenried took down Cape Henlopen 54-44 at the She Got Game Classic. Audenried (4-0) led 25-9 at halftime, using their signature aggressive defense to disrupt the Vikings and remain undefeated.

Smith showcased why she’s been garnering Division I interest despite only being a sophomore by putting up 25 points and grabbing 23 rebounds, playing every minute of the game. Coming in she was averaging 20.3 points and 17.3 rebounds per game, a step up from the 16.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game she registered in her freshman year.

Shayla Smith (above, in October) and Audenried picked up a win at the She Got Game Classic in D.C. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

Smith has burst onto the scene recently, playing her first summer of AAU basketball this year with Philly Rise. She has been a gym rat for as long as she can remember and simply loves to play basketball, whether it’s with her older brothers on the street or in Audenried’s gym.

But she truly became hooked when she joined the basketball team in seventh grade at Hill Freedman Middle School. From there, it took off and she has developed into the player she is today. According to Audenried head coach Kevin Slaughter, her progress has been “microwave-ish” in how quickly she has grown as a player.

“The things that she's accomplished in a year and a half,” Slaughter said. “Some kids don't do it from 10 years old to 19.”

A large part of the growth that Smith has had is thanks to the time she spent refining her game during the pandemic. Although she didn’t have an organized team to play with, she was in the gym improving while many of her peers were at home on the couch.

Smith was blessed with her 5-foot-9 height and athleticism, but she has improved immensely on the floor since she’s come to Audenried. You could see flashes of her passing ability on display against Cape Henlopen as she was connecting on looping passes traveling the length of the floor that you’d expect to see from a quarterback. And the quarterback comparison might have a little more meaning to it when you consider the fact that she used to play football as a kid.

But right now a big focus for Smith is her ball handling. Her and her coach acknowledge that she may project as a point guard at the next level, and if she wants to get to that level she will need to be stronger with the ball in her hands.

Smith was the primary ball handler for Audenried against Cape Henlopen, orchestrating the offense when she wasn’t starring herself.

Although the outside shots weren’t falling for Smith against the Vikings, she looks like a natural shooter and certainly wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger from downtown. That’s a part of her game that she is confident about and thinks will translate well to the next level.

“I can always shoot.” Smith said. “I don't know, it just was a little off today.”

On the college front, Smith has been officially offered by Temple and Delaware State. Other schools like St. Joe’s and Monmouth have shown a lot of interest, and she has a phone call set up with West Virginia as well. She says Temple has shown the most interest in her early on in the process but acknowledges that she still has a ways to go until she makes a decision.

Beyond Smith, Slaughter is happy with the supporting cast he has around her, which includes freshman Aniyah Cheeseboro, junior Aniyah Howard, and senior Erionnah Shelly. He says that his team is “on schedule” in terms of where he was hoping the team would be and even gave them quite a lofty comparison.

“I tell people they remind me of the 2001 Sixers when they had Iverson, because they don't care about scoring,” Slaughter said. “They just want to win. So if Shayla gets most of the points or ZayAhni Neurell hits most of the threes, they don't care. They just want to play D, stop the other team and be aggressive.”

However, it hasn’t come without a bit of adversity, as the team lost two expected starters in the fall. Jourdan Johnson was ruled ineligible for a fifth year after a PIAA hearing and Maya Braxton-Young transferred to Woodbury (N.J.)

Although they are not a traditional powerhouse and sit in the same division as back-to-back reigning Public League champions Imohtep Charter, Audenried will look to make some noise this year behind their star Smith and a strong supporting cast.

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