Profile: Courtside with Te Smith

Published 11:34 am Friday, March 17, 2023

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By LAUREN SEXTON | Sports Reporter

Overcoming obstacles is nothing new to a student-athlete. Finding the balance between school and sports takes a lot of work. However, for Te Smith, the hurdles he faced in life helped shape him into the student-athlete he is today.

“I had a dad who passed away when I was seven years old,” Smith said about growing up. ” My mom raised three kids, it was rough on her. Moving from house to house, sometimes not even having that. It’s been rough.”

Being a kid is tough as is, but having to overcome a lot of adversity at such a young age, Smith was fortunate enough to have people in his life to help guide him to achieve his ambitions. Despite Smith’s circumstances, he endured as a child and teenager

Having a coach like Greg Dickison during his years at Montevallo High School helped encourage Smith to pursue his dream of playing college-level basketball. Working with Smith on and off the court, Dickison helped cultivate the path for Smith’s future

“He was like a father figure to me,” Smith said about his relationship with his former high school coach. “My dad died when I was young.  It’s been hard on my mom raising three kids, and he came my freshman year of high school. He’s been there for me, has done everything for me, and got me where I am today. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know where I’d be.”

Dickison worked with Smith throughout high school to help change Smith’s perspective on his future, helping him gain insight into overcoming the obstacles Smith had faced. By Smith’s junior year, Dickison had seen a change in Smith’s mindset and saw that a bright future was in Smith’s grasp.

“I spent a lot of time with him and worked hard constantly showing up on a regular basis just to make sure he’s doing his work,” Dickison said about working with Smith. “Just spending a lot of time with him to build that relationship.”

Not too long after the start of his junior year, Smith officially accepted a college offer to pursue collegiate-level basketball at West Alabama University. A dream came true for Smith who had always hoped he would continue his basketball career beyond his high school gymnasium.

“When I went to West Alabama,” Smith said, “Me and my girlfriend got a scholarship to West Alabama to play basketball.  To us, that was an amazing opportunity.”

After playing several seasons at West Alabama, Smith made the decision to return to his hometown of Montevallo and continue playing basketball at the University of Montevallo.

“I wanted to come to Montevallo,” Smith said about his choice to return home to play college ball. “It’s where I was brought up and where I am from. All my friends and my family [are here]. I want to bring a championship back home.

There is no doubt that Smith has accomplished so much in a short time, being credited as a great athlete and great student by his coaches. However, it is the kind of compassion he has gained through all of his obstacles that makes him a great teammate.

“Te has an amazing relationship with all his teammates,” Dickison said about Smith’s bond with his high school teammates. “He loved them. He loved to see them succeed when they did something on the court. You would think he did it because he celebrated just as hard as they did. He always supported him. He was an amazing teammate. He saw everybody on his team as his brother. He loved to spend time with them and make sure they stayed in practice and [did] the actual work.”

For Smith’s new coach at the University of Montevallo, Anthony Komara, Smith has made Komara’s first year of being a head coach and his.transition to the University of Montevallo seamless.

“He’s made this transition for me a lot easier,” Komara said. “He always does what you ask him to do. He’s always a positive influence on the younger guys. He’s just the guy that you want to be around. He’s got an unbelievable heart, and he has all the qualities that you want in a leader and in an older guy in your program. We’re very blessed to have him here, and we’re really lucky that it worked out for him to have one year left, and for him to come home. It’s been a lot of fun, and we’re embarking on a journey.”

Smith achieved his goal of playing basketball in college, graduated with one bachelor’s from West Alabama, and now is pursuing a second one at the University of Montevallo. But the silver lining of Smith’s story is not that he achieved his goals and overcame so much adversity at such a young age, it is his ability to encourage others with his story.

You just keep pushing,” Smith said about how he encourages others with his own journey. “That’s what I tell them, to keep pushing. I know it’s hard and there’s going to be adversity, that’s life on the court and everywhere. Do you want to give up, want to do bad things, do horrible things, or look for the future? What are you going to do later on? Do you want to be behind bars or dead? Or [do you want to] put your family in a better situation? Take care of your family.”

Smith’s coaches believe it is Smith’s insight and the lessons he’s learned from his life experiences that give him the gift of becoming an incredible coach one day. They can see him guiding kids who have dealt with similar situations Smith has faced down the right path.

“I used to ask them all the time what he wants to do when he grows up,” Dickison said. “About his sophomore or junior year, he started telling me he wants to be like me. He wants to coach basketball and wants to mentor kids. My goal once he finishes playing his last year of basketball is to have him find a coaching job somewhere as an assistant. That’d be amazing as well. His goal is to be a coach and mentor and help kids grow just the same way he did.”

“I don’t know if Te even realizes this about himself, but he is going to be an unbelievable coach and teacher one day,” Komora said. ” If you could see him interact with kids, see him interact with his younger cousins. He has this quality about him that draws those guys to him. They act however he acts. If he’s acting all upbeat and fun, they’re going to do what he does, like he’s just that guy that they want to be around, and they want to follow. He’s an unbelievable role model for this community. For all the kids at Montevallo High School, and all the young kids around here, he sets the tone for them. Just showing them there is a way to improve your life, there is a way to make something of your life, even if you didn’t start at the best point, you can always change it. His story is unbelievable, and it should be motivation for everybody that he did this and now he’s paving the way for his family for the rest of his life. I just think it’s really special and it’s an awesome story. We’re really lucky to have him here.”

For Smith, he sees the possibility of being a coach.

“I want to start out at a high school, and then work my way up,” Smith said about the possibility of coaching in the future. “A lot of people say I want to start out in college and that’s hard. I feel like my chances are higher [getting a coaching position] in a high school to start off.”

For people like Dickison who have seen Smith’s journey, it tends to pull on their heart strings.

“It has brought tears to my eyes just to see where he’s at,” Dickison said about Smith’s growth from high school student to college graduate currently pursuing another degree. “He’s working on his second degree in college. For me, it’s been all the time I spent with him and knowing how hard it was to get him to change some of his ways and to see where he’s at now. He’s like a son of mine.”

Adversity is something that everyone faces in life. Some choose to let it define them, however, Smith overcame the narrative and rewrote his own story. While he has the dreams of becoming an LA Laker, telling his own story of overcoming the odds is something Smith is truly passionate about.

“My hope is to play professional ball and hopefully have my degree,” Smith said about his future ambition, but coaching and teaching kids and helping them better their futures is still something he wants to do.