By Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
College coaches filed into the gym at Audenried Charter this fall.
Plenty of eyes will be focused on the Rockets … for the next two years — and coach Kevin Slaughter hopes well beyond.
The star attraction is 5-foot-9 guard Shayla Smith, who is already a 1,000-point scorer and Philadelphia Public League MVP heading into her junior year.
“It shows people that you don’t gotta go to one of those private schools or whatever,” Smith said in October. “You can go wherever you want to go. It’s about what you do, how you lead your team and how far you can take your team.”
Smith averaged 16.8 ppg, 1.0 apg, 10.6 rpg and 2.8 spg during her freshman season at Audenried. Her stock started to rise playing with the Philly Rise in that spring and summer, earning her first Division I offer from Delaware State in April 2022.
Audenried junior Shayla Smith attracted a number of college coaches to open gyms this fall. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)
The recruitment took another jump last season when she won The Public League MVP and led Audenried to its first Public League title and first state playoff win as she averaged 24.8 ppg, 3.0 apg, 15.6 rpg and 4.6 spg as a sophomore.
Smith has 1,108 career points in two seasons. She became the fastest player in Public League history to reach the 1,000-point mark when she eclipsed the milestone during a PPL quarterfinal win over Masterman, her 48th career game. Smith passed University City 1996 grad Shawnetta Stewart, who scored 1K in 54 games before finishing with 2,501 points in her high school career before playing at Rutgers and in the WNBA.
“Shayla’s definitely the best player who’s ever played at Audenried and we’ve had some talent,” Slaughter said. “We’ve had some good players but Shayla is a generational talent.”
Temple, Penn State, Delaware, Arizona, Bethune-Cookman, St. John’s, DePaul, Florida and Richmond are among the schools to extend scholarship offers to Smith since the start of her sophomore season.
Plenty of those programs sent coaches to Grays Ferry for open gyms this fall. St. Joe’s, Temple, St. John’s, Richmond, Rutgers, Monmouth, Delaware State, Delaware and Florida all made the trip for Smith.
D-II programs like Cheyney, NC Fayetteville and Shaw have come in to check out Slaughter’s team, which also includes senior forward Aniyah Howard, junior guard Senaya Parker, who led the country in scoring last season at Samuel Fels, and junior guard Heaven Reese, who filled it up last season at Prep Charter
Slaughter added that some of the Division I coaches have also been there to check in on 6-foot-2 freshman Nasiaah Russell. She could be the program’s next star.
“That’s the whole deal is to keep it going, keep it going, keep it going,” Slaughter said. “Keeping us on the radar, and not being a one-hit wonder.”
Smith has ambitions of averaging a triple-double this season, and winning the Pa. Class 4A Player of the Year award. Slaughter hopes some of the new additions can take the load off Smith as she did everything for her team a season ago and had a whatever’s greener than a green light to shoot from her head coach.
She showed another sider of her game with the Philly Rise 16U squad during the AAU season, as she was a role player on the NIKE EYBL championship team.
“I just gotta do the small stuff like hustling, diving on the floor, getting steals, rebounds and just making the right play,” Smith said. “I feel like playing with the Rise helped me get my IQ higher and my decision making better.”
She showed she’s not just a walking highlight reel.
“It’s the stuff that people don’t see,” Smith said. “Like they don’t see in the videos and stuff, I really hustle, I do everything. Every time I step on the court I got something to prove.”
Smith was on campus at St. John’s and Richmond this summer. She said she hopes to eventually take visits to Florida, Penn State and Delaware. The Gators and Nittany Lions are two of the high-major programs recruiting her the hardest.
She hasn’t quite figured out what she’s looking for in her future school. That will start to take care of itself over time.
The goal at the moment is to continue to leave a unique mark on the city’s rich hoops history.
“I feel like there's a lot of great players to come out of the city, but obviously I want to be the best one to come out of Philly,” Smith said. “I feel like my game is different than everybody else.”