Smith signs to Coastal Alabama Community College
It was a day that, however briefly, Nizaiah Smith thought he might never see.
Friday afternoon, the senior Georgiana athlete signed a scholarship to play basketball for Coastal Alabama Community College (formerly Faulkner State).
Two years ago, Smith suffered a rare knee injury that resulted in cartilage loss–an injury that nearly cost him his basketball career.
But thanks to an experimental cartilage replacement surgery, Smith not only recovered to return to the hardwood, but he thrived on it.
Georgiana head basketball coach Kirk Norris said that Smith has been “a dream kid to coach.”
“You don’t have to worry about coming in and him not giving his best effort every game or every practice,” Norris said. “He’s going to give everything he’s got every day. He’s a coach’s dream because he embodies all of the stuff you want out of a basketball player. He’s a good student. He’s a good role model for the younger kids coming up.
“He improved every year and worked his tail off to get better. And it shows that when you put in the hard work, it pays off for you. He was blessed with a lot of ability, and he’s got great size, but there are a lot of kids who come through here that have that and they aren’t going where he’s going because they didn’t put in the time and they didn’t have the work ethic he has.”
Smith is the 11th basketball signee for Georgiana in the past decade, and the third athlete to pen a scholarship just this year for the school.
Smith said that though recovery was a lengthy, and often rocky, road (rehab took an entire year), he said that the bigger challenge he faced came after the departure of an incredibly talented 2016 graduating class that included the likes of Jacquez Payton, Richard Boggan, Demarcus Rich and others.
“They encouraged me,” Smith said. “Jacquez told me every day to keep working, because those guys knew I had it.
“I talked to Coach Norris, and he told me that me and Jamichael [Stallworth] would have to play a big role.”
And that’s exactly what they did. Smith and Stallworth were major sources of leadership on the Georgiana team that made its second consecutive Final Four appearance this season before falling to the Sacred Heart Cardinals.
But Robby Robertson, head basketball coach at Coastal Alabama Community College, said that it was far more than his physical ability that makes him an attractive addition to the team.
“The first thing we set out to do in our recruiting this year was to recruit good character people,” Robertson said. “And in getting to know Nizaiah early in the recruiting process and following him throughout the year, he is that kind of person. He comes from a great program with obviously a lot of winning and success, which is very important to us. And on top of that he’s 6-foot-5, athletic and has great ball skills that we feel will carry over into our league.
“It’s a big jump for anyone coming from high school, even at a small college. He’s got to get in the weight room and stay in the weight room, and refine his skill development. But we feel like if he stays on track, we won’t have any problems. And he’s got to be able to take care of the academic side of it. But his character will allow him to take advantage of that support system.”