Jeyla Smith realized the moment she thought she might have a chance to continue her basketball playing days on the collegiate level.
“When I reached 1,000 points, that’s when I knew I could play,” said Smith.
That came during her junior season at Lutcher a year ago.
Taylor Crappell, her coach at Lutcher, said she knew it a bit earlier.
“I knew right off the bat,” said Crappell, who has coached Smith for two years. “She just has so much raw talent. She started late. I was surprised at how much talent she had for as little experience that she had. It’s like she improves each year so much in between the years – leaps and bounds above several players in our league.
Smith’s realization proved correct, especially after she signed to play basketball at Mississippi College on Thursday in Lutcher’s media center.
“I’m really excited to extend my basketball career at Louisiana College and it was fun playing these last four years,” said Smith.
Mississippi College, Crappell said, will be getting a special player in Smith.
“Both on and off the court, she is such a great kid. The best part of coaching is I get to watch her improve and grow on and off the floor. They are lucky to have her. She will run through a wall for you,” the Lutcher coach said.
Exactly from what position in college the 6-footer will play when running through that wall is undetermined.
“I can’t wait to see what they do with her. She’s very versatile. She’s eager to be both inside and outside the 3-point line. I’m eager to see if they play her as a post or play her as a forward or guard. She will take on anything they give her,” said Crappell.
Mississippi College, Smith said, gave her a feeling of home.
“The campus is really nice and everybody was really nice to me and comforting and I felt safe,” Smith said.
That feeling of home fits for the Smith family.
“It’s not too far. It’s two-and-a-half hours, so it’s not too far,” said Dale Smith, Jeyla’s father, of the school located in Clinton, Miss. “We can get there and she can get back home so it was a pretty good selection.”
The selection also got a thumbs up from Tyra Smith, Jeyla’s mother.
“I’m really proud that she made this decision because it was a long journey and a long process,” said Tyra Smith.
Jeyla Smith will be off to college to play basketball but that wasn’t always a slam dunk for the Lutcher standout.
“She had some ups and downs and some hiccups and a couple of times she didn’t want to play and we just had to keep encouraging her and motivating her and she ultimately made the right decision,” Tyra Smith said.
Then came another realization for Jeyla.
“Sometimes we had long, bad games and I just felt like it wasn’t for me and then I realized this is what I’m supposed to do,” she said.