When the Verona girls’ basketball team was upset in the first round of the state tournament last March, it didn’t sit well with freshman guard Aaliyah Smith. Sure, the season had been fun and all. Playing basketball always is for her. But winning is what’s actually fun. In just five minutes of speaking with Smith that much becomes clear. She’s about her championship. And this upcoming season she plans on seizing her opportunity to get it.
Aaliyah Smith, a 5’5” point guard, is the nation’s 10th ranked girls’ player in the class of 2022, according to ESPNW’s player rankings. Yes, that’s nationally. Smith, a dazzling point guard with lightning handles and the ability to get to the rim, has already garnered attention from national scouts.
This summer she has taken her game onto the AAU circuit and continued to build on what was a standout freshman campaign.
“I’m humbled,” Smith said of her national ranking. “We’ve been working towards this so I was happy to find that out.”
Smith says she had a lot of fun playing last season at Verona and is looking forward to the 2019-20 season, when she expects to be even better. Collegiate scout Dan Olson, who prepared the list of high school players and had Smith ranked tenth overall but actually third at her position, described her as being an elusive, one-on-one creator capable of getting to the rim and driving and dishing to teammates. Which is exactly how Smith describes herself.
“I get to the rim pretty well,” Smith told Madison365. “I’m more of a pass first type player. I like to drop a dime. A good pass makes me feel good. I like getting to the rack. I know I gotta work on my midrange game. But other than that, I’m a pretty good player!”
Smith has the confidence and swagger of an elite point guard. With images of killer crossovers and up-and-under layups passing through the mind, Madison365 asked Smith who her idol was. And her answer was not at all surprising: Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving.
“I look towards NBA players, so I say Kyrie Irving,” Smith said. “That’s my guy. I look at him the most. We got the same type of style of the game so I watch a lot of him. I’m a Nets fan! We got a squad!”
And that explains everything about Smith’s confidence and swagger. As an NBA rookie Kyrie Irving challenged Kobe Bryant to a $1,000,000 dollar one-on-one game. At the time, Bryant was one of the most lethal one-on-one players to ever play the game. The contest never materialized but Irving had made his mark.
Smith is ready to make hers on her rivals too, like Leilani Kapinus of Madison Memorial. In fact the Memorial Spartans and the Lancers of LaFollette are the only teams Smith even thinks about having to compete against going into next season.
“Since I was little I’ve been playing,” Smith says. “It’s always been fun. I love competition and playing somebody better than me, knowing I’m gonna get better. That makes me wanna work hard so that’s fun, especially when playing somebody better than you or with the same talent you have. You might win, you might lose.”
Smith, who says she has already garnered offers from Division 1 schools like Arizona and Minnesota, says winning the state championship is the biggest thing on her radar right now. After that, she wants to go to college and study sports medicine while playing basketball at the highest collegiate level.
As for now, it’s all about that trophy and getting better.
“I would say taking the championship,” Smith said when asked what her goal is for next season. “I feel like we’re gonna take the ‘ship so I’m looking forward to that. We gotta take that one. I’m looking forward to all the tough games. But I’m looking forward to taking the ‘ship.”