Alexandria Smith is just starting to realize how good she can be.
The Bronx native and Murry Bergtraum rising senior center has lost weight, gaining confidence and is beginning to catch the eyes of college coaches. The 6-foot-3 Smith only began playing organized basketball as a freshman at the Lower Manhattan school. People told her she should and her mother Shannon was on legendary coach Ed Grezinsky’s first team in 1991.
“I kind of just got myself started,” she said.
Grezinsky called her raw at first, but you could see her potential and willingness to learn. He remembers a practice where forward Kimberly Viafara ran into Smith and dropped to the floor “like a little handball hitting the wall.” Smith, nicknamed “Big Girl” because of her size, was still standing straight up, not knowing what she had done and not realizing her own strength.
“She has a big upside,” Grezinsky said. “You can’t coach size. There are a lot of girls who would kill to have her size.”
Smith saw limited time as a freshman, but her skills have caught up to her stature as she produced the best season of her high school career last season. She lost 10-15 pounds. It allowed her to move better and stay on the court longer.
“The game was not as difficult as it was,” she said. “It’s never easy. It’s gotten a lot less difficult.”
Her natural athleticism and talents began to come out. She has garnered interest from Texas Tech, UMass, James Madison, FDU, and Wagner while playing with her Gauchos travel ball team. Going to college wasn’t going to be an easy option before basketball.
“She didn’t know if she was going to make college because of money,” Gauchos’ coach Earl Elliotte said. “Now you are going to go to college.”
Smith averaged 10.2 points and 9.1 rebounds for the Lady Blazers during the regular season last year. She has soft hands that allow her to snatch rebounds off the glass and is a handful on offense down on the low block. Defensively she is getting better moving laterally from corner to corner and changes the shots of most players trying to drive to the hoop against her.
“She is a problem,” Shore Shore coach Anwar Gladden said.
Her finest game was a 15-point performance in a regular season win over eventual city champion Francis Lewis. She also had 12 of her 14 points in the first half against the Patriots before fouling out as they ended Bergtraum’s 15-reign over the PSAL in the semifinals. It’s left Smith determined to put the Lady Blazers back on top.
“No one wants to be part of the team that end the streak, but as much as it hurt it was also a great motivator for me to get better this summer and try to get the chip back next year and start the streak up again,” she said.
Smith knows she still has a ways to go. She needs to get in even better shape and improve her shooting. Grezinsky believes the sky is the limit for her if she makes an effort to do those things and gets into a college strength and conditioning program down the road.
“It depends on how she is willing to work,” Grezinsky said. “There aren’t too many girls who are as big and strong as her anywhere in the city.”