When Grant Smith learned he had been named to the 2017 IndyStar Indiana Boys All-Star basketball team, he celebrated.
With a loud yell.
And a Mint Oreo milkshake
The impromptu, mini celebration took place Sunday at a Steak ‘n Shake somewhere between Connersville and Logansport, where Smith had played in the 29th annual North/South Indiana All-Star Classic. He and some of his family members enjoyed the moment.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, there’s no better feeling. It’s hard to describe or put into words,” said the well-spoken 6-6 CHS senior who became the sixth Spartans’ boys player to earn All-Star honors.
“When coach (Kerry) Brown called to tell me, I just wanted to yell so loud.
“So I did.”
Smith, who will play collegiately at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, had Spartans’ opponents yelling in dismay all season, averaging 18.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists to help CHS roll to a school-best 27-2 record.
Connersville’s magical season ended in the championship game of the Southport Regional when the cold-shooting Spartans lost to Ben Davis, 44-21.
The sting of the defeat was minimized some as the tall and talented Giants went on to win the Class 4A state championship.
Despite Smith leading CHS in all offensive categories, he and Brown believe the team’s success and Smith’s team-first style of play are what landed him a spot on the coveted All-Star team.
“I think his overall team play and the fact that he sacrificed points for us to win are the reasons he made the team and he definitely deserves to be an All-Star,” said Brown, who will serve as an assistant coach for the team.
“You’ve got all of his career achievements — winning the (Eastern Indiana Athletic) conference three straight years, two sectional championships, two regional appearances …
“He was a great leader for us and a great teammate and he played so well at the end of the year. And every time he played in front of the Indianapolis media he played really well, his all-around game really showed. That had to help him.”
“I think they wanted a team-oriented player who can do a lot of things. I think that helped me,” added Smith, who scored 1,033 points during his CHS career.
Game 1 of the two-game series between Indiana and Kentucky is Saturday, June 10 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The girls game begins at 5 p.m. with the boys game following at 7:15 p.m.
Game 2 will be played on June 11 at Central Hardin High School in Elizabethtown, Ky. The girls play at 1 p.m. with the boys game starting at 3:15 p.m.
Two Junior-Senior exhibition games are on the docket. The first is on June 6 at New Albany, the second exhibition will be played at Plainfield on June 8.
The games will be doubleheaders with the girls contests tipping off at 6 p.m. and the boys action beginning at 8 p.m.
One of Smith’s All-Star teammates, 6-3 guard Kyle Mangas of Warsaw High School, will join him this fall at Indiana Wesleyan, along with 6-9 center Michael Zitney from Massillon-Jackson, Ohio.
Mangas, who averaged 22.6 points for the Tigers, scored 47 points in a regional semifinal win against East Chicago Central, which featured All-Star Jermaine Couisnard. Zitney’s Massillon-Jackson team beat Cincinnati Moeller to win the OHSAA state championship.
“I’m really looking forward to playing and Marion is not that far from Connersville so I hope to see some people from here at some of our games,” Smith said, adding something that all graduating Spartan basketball players feel deep inside.
“I’ll definitely miss playing in Spartan Bowl and I’ll miss Spartan Nation. The fans always made me work harder and I can’t thank them enough for all of the support they gave our team.
“And I wouldn’t have made the All-Star team without my teammates and coaches so I want to thank them, too. My teammates and coaches are great.”
Marty Beasley of Carroll (Fort Wayne) will coach the boys All-Stars. Mark Galloway of Culver Academy will join Brown as an assistant.
Notes: Brown said he’s honored to be an assistant coach for the All-Star team. “I feel very fortunate. It’s very rewarding and I’m extremely honored,” he said. “It’s something that was on my bucket list so I’m truly happy that I was selected.”
Union (Ky.), which defeated Indiana Wesleyan, 92-80, in the national semifinals of the 2017 NAIA Division II National Championship, won the NAIA title by beating Cornerstone (Mich), 72-69. Indiana Wesleyan finished 29-8.
The 2017 IndyStar Indiana Mr. Basketball will be announced at The Star’s Indiana Sports Awards Dinner on April 27 in Indianapolis.
The finalists are Jack Nunge (Castle), Kris Wilkes (Indianapolis North Central), Cooper Neese (Cloverdale) and Malik Williams (Fort Wayne Snider).
2017 Indiana Boys All-Stars
Grant Smith, Connersville, 6-6, 18.9 (Indiana Wesleyan)
Kyle Mangas, Warsaw, 6-3, 22.6 (Indiana Wesleyan)
Kris Wilkes, Indianapolis North Central, 6-7, 22.1 (UCLA)
Cooper Neese, Cloverdale, 6-4, 27.2 (Butler)
Jack Nunge, Castle, 6-10, 22.8 (Iowa)
Malik Williams, Fort Wayne Snider, 7-0, 21.5 (Louisville)
Michael Ertel, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), 6-2, 19.8 (Louisiana-Monroe)
Jaylen Butz, Fort Wayne North, 6-10, 17.2 (DePaul)
Jermaine Couisnard, East Chicago Central, 6-4, 27.5 (undecided)
Zach Gunn, Hamilton Southeastern, 6-6, 21.2 (Ball State)
Jaylen Minnett, Terre Haute South, 6-1, 25.8 (IUPUI)
Mack Smith, Warren Central, 6-2, 19.5 (Eastern Illinois)
Sasha Stefanovic, Crown Point, 6-4, 19.9 (Purdue)
Head coach: Marty Beasley, Carroll (Fort Wayne). Assistant coaches: Kerry Brown (Connersville), Mark Galloway (Culver Academy).
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