So here is how the Oak Hill Basketball story begins. Check out the 2017 Nike Clinic Notes on Steve Smith Man and Zone Defense Notes too!
Steve Smith purchased a Mazda 626 back in 1983 and was driving through the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. He was going for an assistant basketball coaching position, and it was a lot better than what he did right now: bank cashier. Another fun fact was that he was running late for the interview.
His pregnant wife, Lisa had just moved into a new apartment in Wilmore, Kentucky and he was thinking about moving to Mouth of Wilson, Virginia which was a small village with about 100 people surrounded by rolling grass hills, tobacco farms, and cattle.
His best friend and former college classmate, Larry Davis were just named the head boy’s basketball coach at Oak Hill Basketball Academy, a small boarding school in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Steve’s dad was a small college basketball coach in Ohio, Indiana, California, and Kentucky. He grew up around basketball and wanted to coach it and teach too.
He interviewed and got the job as a science teacher and assistant basketball coach. He packed up his wife and newborn son from the hospital and moved to a house on Oak Hill’s campus. They have been there every since then.
Steve Smith and Oak Hill Basketball are legends now in the basketball circles. His teams have won eight high school national championships in his 31 years at Oak Hill Basketball Academy. That also includes his two-year stint as the assistant coach.
He has bee nominated for the Basketball Hall of Fame after winning over 1,000 victories during his Oak Hill tenure. He eclipsed that mark on Dec 29, 2016, when the Oak Hill Warriors beat Oregon’s West Linn High School in the Les Schwab Invitational in Oregon.
The Oak Hill Warriors played Indiana’s La Lumiere School in the DICK’S High School National Championship and won 63-60. They had a record of 45-1 and were the number two team in the country in USA Today’s Super 25 Boy’s Basketball Rankings.
Coach Steve Smith will have several NBA players come back to visit him during games like Bismack Biyombo, Victor, Oladipo, and Andre Drummond to mention a few. Coach Smith isn’t a screamer in the sideline huddles. He does stare at them, but they just stare back at him listening along the way.
Carmelo Anthony is one of the larger stars that played at Oak Hill Basketball Academy. He is a distinguished alumnus and comes to a lot of their games. Coach Smith and Carmelo had a great relationship that was meaningful for both of them. If it weren’t for Coach Smith, then Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t have made the transition from Baltimore to Oak Hill Basketball Academy.
At the Oak Hill Basketball Academy, they have a curfew, have to make their beds every day, eat and sleep at certain times. It’s very structured.
Quinn Cook was a member of the Oak Hill team and went on to be the point guard on Duke’s national championship team. He has been playing on the Canton Charge which is a team in the NBA Development League. He wouldn’t have experienced as much as success in college if Coach Smith hadn’t been a second father to him. They would talk about everything, but basketball in his office.
Most of these players grew up with a single mom, so Coach Smith has been a major part of their lives. He was a parent to most of his players.
Chuck Eisner who was the son of the school’s president, had an idea of making a high-powered basketball program. This idea came along about seven years before Coach Smith came to work at Oak Hill in 1983.
They established a school in 1878 by the New River Baptist Association as a school for kids growing up in the hills. In 1950, they built a coed boarding school for students that needed the motivation to realize their full academic potential.
In 1976, enrollment was spiraling, and expenses were growing so Chuck with to the NYC playgrounds with a handful of scholarships and had the dream of making the school a big-time hoops program.
Oak Hill had some good teams by the time that Coach Smith got there, but they didn’t have prime-time NBA prospects. They had three or four guys that would play Division 1 basketball. All that changed when Coach Smith got Rod Strickland there.
Rod Strickland won a state championship in the Bronx as a junior. Coach Smith got a call from Steve Lappas, Rod’s high school coach along with Lou D’Almeida, who ran the AAU Bronx Gauchos. Tom Kochanski also told him how good he was too.
Rod had gotten behind in his book work and needed help with is academics. When they took Rod Strickland to the Oak Hill Basketball Academy, he thought that he was going to Mayberry.
Strickland came from the airport to the gym, where they had twenty college basketball assistant coaches watching guys play pick-up basketball. Rod walks in, and he owns the gym. Rod was a gifted scorer, passer, great ball-handler, and composite floor general. He was a kid that showed no emotion, but he would dominate you.
Strickland would go to the Smith’s house to watch TV, drink Kool-aid, and eat some grilled cheese sandwiches. Rod Strickland spent a lot of time with the Smiths.
In 1985, Larry Davis left Oak Hill to take an assistant coaching job at the University of Delaware. Coach Smith was named the head coach. As soon as Coach Smith got the job, he would travel to Washington D.C. and New York City to get players in the summer-time.
Coach Smith had a team that went to the Las Vegas Prep Classic, one of the best premier tournaments in the country, which featured the top 50 high school programs. They did great in the tournament, and they started getting invited to all the games across the country.
Oak Hill had tons of kids wanting to come to the Mouth of Wilson, Ron Mercer, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Durant, Jerry Stackhouse, and much more. Coach Smith has coached more than 29 McDonald’s All-Americans, and more than 28 NBA draft picks in his coaching tenure.
Kevin Durant found that being at Oak Hill Basketball Academy gave him focus and a family environment. He got to play basketball on a national stage and competed versus the best talent.
All the basketball players are on scholarship at Oak Hill, but the majority of the student body is on financial assistance too. If a kid gets an all expenses trip to Oak Hill to play basketball, then his family pays about $1500 a year for it.
Coach Smith is a man of integrity and doesn’t have an agenda. He isn’t trying to package himself with a kid to get a big-time college basketball job. It’s about relationships with him. That is the thing that separates him from the others being his credibility.
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