Here at GBW we dubbed the week of January 23rd, 2005 as "Jerret Smith week." That, my friends, was because of the gauntlet of games the future Michigan point guard was going to have to lead his Romulus team through.
It started on Tuesday the 25th. Romulus went up against Detroit Country Day, one of the top 10 teams in the state that features the top player in the class of 2007 in Alex Legion. Next up, on Friday the 28th, was a match up with the #2 team in the state, the Belleville Tigers. They too boast a big time player in Leon Freeman, one of the top 10 juniors in the class of 2006. And finally, on Saturday the 29th, Romulus finished up with Chris Douglas-Roberts (the #2 rated senior in the state) and Detroit Northwestern.
That would be a tough week for anyone, but it may have been even tougher for a kid like Jerret that had onlookers questioning what level of player he really was. We decided that it would be interesting to get a peak into his mind as he prepared for the challenge before him. Here are my accounts of my day by day conversations with Jerret. From them you'll find out if the pressure was getting to him and who helped him when he got down on himself a little.
Monday January 24, 2005
Alex Legion calls me and jokingly asked me "what side are you going to sit on?" He knows that he, Jerret, and myself are from the same area and that I talk to each of them from time to time. I tell him I am going to sit right in the middle because I have no rooting interest. Alex is really excited. He says, “I can’t wait to play against Jerret because everyone from the neighborhood will be there to watch us and our teams play."
I talked to Jerret shortly after, and he too is anxiously waiting the game. Jerret says, “Dre this should be a good game. As long as we play together we will be o.k." From there I start to talk about Belleville and what that game means. “One game at a time,” Jerret said in a very relaxed. He does, however, take a brief moment to look at all that is ahead. “I have been waiting for this week and I am glad it is finally here." He sounds very confident. As always before we get off the phone he says, "are you coming to the game?” Just as I told Alex, I said that I'd be there.
Tuesday January 25, 2005
I get to the game at Country Day, and as I walk through the door I see Romulus SG Dante Williams. He tells me he is ready tonight…, as does Romulus forward Avery Stephenson. I then walk into the gym and see Jerret. "We are ready to play this game," he says. As I walk down to the other end, Alex greets me with straight face. “It's going down tonight," he says. "I can’t wait”. Country Day goes up by double digits and leads from start to finish behind 30 points from Alex. They held off a furious Romulus comeback led by Jerret. He is dejected. The last time I saw him like this was the Belleville district game that they lost last year when he missed those free throws (for the story, click here). He seemed to never get in a flow. He played only 16-20 minutes on the night, with most of those coming late in the game. He says “Man that was embarrassing. That’s not the way I play. Something has got to change. I have to play my game”. Sam Webb talks with Jerret for a while trying to bring up his sprits and telling to keep his head up. He still is down about the game. Later on that night about 11:15, I get a call from Jerret so he can comment on the game for a story. He is very upset about the way he played. “Don’t get me wrong Alex played well, but there is no way he has 30 and I only have 10 points," Jerret says. "I am much better than the way I played. You will see the next game will be totally different”. We talked for about 30 Minutes as he was getting things off his chest. He sounds a little better.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Jerret calls me and I can’t believe what I am hearing. He is talking with major confidence that he had his first two years in high school. “I know you might not believe me, Dre, but watch what happens," Jerret said. "Come Friday, I am going to worry about the way I play and what I can do. I will take care of business against Belleville”. He is speaking with so confidence that he makes sure that I don't take it as arrogance. “I am not trying to sound cocky or anything," Jerret said. "I am just confident in what I can do and what I am going to do come Friday. I am going to get back to the things he used to do. Tomorrow I will be at the gym at 5:30 AM to shoot some jumpers and to work at my game."
Thursday January 27, 2005
I didn’t talk with Jerret but I am convinced that he is ready to play tomorrow. He sounds very sure of himself and is poised to have a great game on Friday against Belleville.
Friday January 28, 2005
It is the day of the big game and I am quite sure it will be a packed house. I walk up to the game well over an hour and a half in advance, but the small gym has already reached capacity. I am one of 120 people that are turned away that night. However, I have people inside getting me information at every big play. I get a call that Jerret is playing like he owns the place. He is unstoppable giving Belleville jumpers, drives to the rack, grabbing rebounds, and dishing assists. At the half Jerret already has 21 points. It is more of the same the rest of the game. Jerret ends up with 31 points 10 rebounds and 5 assist in a dominating Romulus 80- 43 win. Romulus was 1-6 against Belleville under Nate Oats coming into this game.
I get a call to meet Jerret at BW3 in Westland for an interview. I get up there and I see that his family is very happy for him. They are always happy for him, but tonight they know it was his night to shine and he did. He walks right up to me and says “I told you what I was going to do and I did it!" True to form, he talked about how it was a team victory and how happy he was that they won at Belleville. He really wasn’t too excited, but excited enough to be proud of what just happened. I ask him about the next night’s game. “It should be a tough game," Jerret say of the match up with Northwestern. "I am sure everyone will be talking about me and Chris Douglas-Roberts, but we need to win this game. I am looking forward to it”.
Saturday January 29, 2005
I walk in to the gym of Romulus high it is starting to fill in pretty well. As I sit down I see Jerret. We start talking about the game he feels that he is going to have another solid outing. “I feel good tonight," Jerret said. "I think I should have another good game, but I just want us to come out with a victory.” Jerret's shots don't fall like they did versus Belleville, but he gets his teammates good shots and plays some very physical defense on Chris Douglas Roberts. Jerret put his 300-lb bench press to good use, muscling CDR whenever he was on him. Romulus won the game 67-56. Chris Douglas-Roberts had 23 points and Jerret had 10 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds.
After the game, Jerret was happy to get the victory. “I am so glad we won," he says. "This was a good week for us as a team. Now we just have to be ready for the rest of our games and we will be all right."
Sunday January 30, 2005
The daunting week is over and Jerret sums up how it all went.
How did you think the week went for you?
"I take every game one game at a time. I am more worried about us getting the win then anything else."
What got you going after Tuesday's tough loss too Country day?
"I talked with Coach Ramsey (Michigan's assistant basketball coach). He just told me to play my game. He went over some things with me about my game. It was good to hear him say the things he did. He was just giving me some info from a coach’s point of view."
What did you think of Chris Douglas-Roberts?
"I was not intimidated by Chris at all. I think he is a very good player and I am glad I had the chance to play against him. I told Coach Oats I wanted to guard him during the game. He scored more, but the bottom line was we won the game. That’s all that matters."
Can you tell us what you think of the way newcomers Devin Searcy ( a sophomore center) and Dominique Buckley ( a freshman point guard) are playing?
"Devin is starting to show what he is capable of. He is really playing well, not that he wasn’t before. It is just that now you can just see his confidence in the way he plays. Dominique is going to be a terrific player. I think he brings up our game so much when he is in playing. A lot of people think he should be scoring more, but he does so many other things for our team with his defense and the way he handles things when he is in the game. Our team is coming together really well right now.
With the way your team is playing right now what are your goals for this team?
"Well right now, I want for our schedule to prepare us for the next step… the state tournament. I am looking towards the districts, the regionals, and beyond. I want us to build to that because then it will mean something. The season is getting us prepared for those things and I am looking forward to that. We just have to take it one game at a time."
Look for photos from this past weeks hoop trips in the coming days.