Baranek: Homewood-Flossmoor girls basketball coach Smith has quite the following
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org November 24, 2013 9:16PM
Homewood-Flossmoor coach Tony Smith reacts to a play by his team against Hillcrest. | Jim Karczewski/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 26, 2013 6:22AM
Amarah Coleman, Destiny Harris, Kristen Moore and Lexi Smith all came from Bolingbrook. Bria Stallworth from Marist. Faith Suggs from Plainfield East.
Tony Smith admits, it looks bad.
But the new leader of Homewood-Flossmoor’s girls basketball program would rather you look, not where those girls came from, but where those girls are going.
Coleman to the University of Illinois. Moore to the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Smith to Wright State. And then there are Gabby Sanders to St. Josephs. Jaievonna Norris to Western Kentucky. Kandace Tate to Eastern Illinois.
All of them are a product of Smith’s coaching, or the H-F High School community.
“And we’re trying to get six more (seniors) in,” Smith said. “We are placing our kids, helping them get to the next level.”
And that, Smith believes, is the bottom line as he begins what he calls a “new adventure, something that gives you the joy of the unknown.”
What we do know is this. H-F has one well-stocked girls basketball roster.
It’s 17 deep. Yes, there are six names that were on other schools’ varsity teams last year, but at the same time all seven H-F varsity players from 2012-13 that could return did return and were kept. And Tate, who sat out last season to concentrate on volleyball, came out too.
That’s the kind of magnetism Tony Smith apparently possesses.
“It’s his intensity,” Coleman said. “He pushes you to the level of play that he wants you to play at so that you can get to the next level.”
Coleman insisted that she didn’t transfer to H-F because Smith tried to talk her into it. But at the same time ...
“I’m very glad he’s here.”
Hey, don’t yell at me. I didn’t make her say it.
The real stories behind what on the surface seems to look like someone doing a perfect impression of the Pied Piper will probably never be told.
I’m sure that when some of the kids that Smith coached at Bolingbrook saw that he was moving on to H-F, they wanted to be a part of it. I’m sure that he didn’t discourage them. I’m also sure club connections found their way into the mix as well.
But some of the theories bandied about by, shall we say, his top competitors, really get out there.
“I’ve heard that I’m buying houses for kids ... I don’t have that kind of money,” Smith said, smiling. “I know a lot of people probably think, ‘Oh, he knew.’ But I didn’t. Any kid who wanted to be a part of it, they got a fair chance.
“I definitely see how it looks. But we lost a kid, too, that I wanted to keep, a sophomore. She played AAU with somebody else and wound up going to a different high school. When I started I lost some kids to Dave Powers (at Fenwick). I didn’t say anything. He’s a good coach and he had it going on.”
This year, Smith said, only two of 19 kids who started the summer didn’t remain — one choosing to concentrate on track and field, and the other transferring.
And they’re all getting a chance. At least that was the case in Thursday’s 91-38 season-opening victory over Hillcrest. A dozen had been on the floor by the end of the first quarter. A total of 15 at least made it to the free throw line by the end of the game.
“I’m going to use a lot of kids,” Smith said. That’s probably going to be the first month of this year, just trying to find the right chemistry, get the kids to trust each other, trust me with what I’m building here.”
Good luck to the competition if they all buy in.