Andrew Smith was a student like any other in the University City school district, until the third grade when his mother felt his brain wasn’t being challenged enough. So she chose tp homeschool him.
Not quite a decade passed and Smith was a teenage student hungry for athletics and decided to do some homework of his own and found the St. Louis Christian HomeSchool Blue Knights.
“He was on Google and found our website and when he showed up at tryouts it was like a coach’s dream,” said Blue Knights head coach Rick Tucker. “You never know the students background with athletics. Some are very good and experienced, some are very inexperienced. He very quickly became a starter.”
While competing for the Blue Knights at 16 and 17-years-old, Smith stood 6’6” and thin, but long.
“As a high school player at 6’6” with really good timing and knowing how to rebound helped and went a long way,” Tucker said. “He always made up for his size with his length and intelligence.”
After graduating, Smith expressed interest in continuing basketball beyond the Blue Knights. Tucker’s trust in him on and off the court made it easy to arrange a tryout with St. Louis Community College.
“I’ve coached a lot of great young men, but not a lot have the skill and length, number one,” Tucker said. “Number two, he’s about the hardest worker you will ever find and about the most self-disciplined kid there ever was.”
On the day of the homeschooled athlete’s tryout with St. Louis Community College’s Head Coach, Terry Collins, Smith was put to the test and didn’t disappoint the coach’s vision of an athlete on the court or in the locker room.
“When he showed up he worked out very well and he did it against one of our better players,” Collins said. “I’m not a neurologist, but I don’t think there’s any correlation between homeschool and college basketball. A student can come out of a public school and not get along with teammates just as somebody from a homeschool background.”
Entering public schooling for the first time since he finished third grade, Smith walked into STLCC as an economics major with no fear or reservations.
“The only difference in how I interacted with people was pretty much when I interacted with strangers and they asked a lot of questions about me being homeschooled,” Smith said. “Other than that, I never really cared about it. I’ve always carried the same personality no matter what.”
Classroom adjustments were no problem for Smith either, in fact, the transition may have actually made things easier.
“I guess there was a slight adjustment,” Smith said. “The real adjustment was now I’m learning at a slower pace. I learn things pretty quickly so I’m sitting there waiting for the next thing to come. It’s actually almost given me more free time.”
Now rounding out his second year as an STLCC Archer, Smith has carried his basketball IQ seamlessly through junior college, but his size is beginning to catch up with him.
“Andrew has never had any trouble with our schemes,” Collins said. “His only downfall is strength. He still hasn’t matured physically. He can get where he needs to be most of the time, but he is small.”
Smith’s time as a basketball player for the Archers is in its final hours, but the basketball chapter of his life is not over unless his academics begin to suffer.
“I still want to play,” Smith said. “I’ve been in contact with Fontbonne and Blackburn College. I’m going to go to the best school that fits my major. If it ever comes between athletics and education, I’m going to pick the best school that suits my education.”
At 19-years-old, Smith has many options on the table, but no matter what he chooses to do, his coaches are confident he has a bright future ahead of him.
“If you have good character and you’re a hard worker you’re going to do well in life and he gets an A+ in both,” said former coach Rick Tucker. “I have no doubts he’s going to be successful in anything he does.”
Article by: Walker Van Wey – Lindenwood University and you can find him on Twitter @Walker_VanWey