Prep Basketball: Smith named South Rowan’s girls basketball coach
By Mike London
LANDIS ó South Rowan has elevated jayvee coach Jarrod Smith to replace Jim Brooks as head girls basketball coach.
Smith, 29, is energetic and excited. He’s been successful at the jayvee level, posting four consecutive winning seasons. Smith coached the jayvees to a 17-5 record in South’s last 4A season in 2007.
“I’ll take my style with me to varsity, but I’m not naive enough to think we want have to be more complex,” Smith said. “Varsity games are faster, the players are better, the officiating is different. Still, we’ll do what I’ve always done. We’ll run, run, run and get in your face on defense.”
Smith has worked with Brooks for four years and has coached all the players currently in South’s program at some point so a smooth transition won’t be a problem.
The biggest obstacle is that South only had nine girls on the varsity basketball roster. Six, including all-county players Taylor May and Nikki Graham, will graduate.
Basic math says the Raiders will be challenged to maintain a positive trend that has seen the program increase its number of wins five straight seasons. South won once in 2004-05. It won 15 times in Brooks’ final season and was fourth in the NPC.
Smith makes no predictions, but he has faith that returners Kayla Morrow, Sam Goins and Libby Sides can keep things moving forward. That trio combined for about 13 points per game in 2008-09.
“Sam plays as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen,” Smith said. “Kayla is as athletic as any girl in the county. We don’t have the tall girls now that South had for so many years, but we’re quicker.”
Smith said Krista Swartz, who suffered a torn ACL at a camp last summer, would’ve been a varsity player and is a lights-out shooter. Several freshmen who excelled as jayvees for Smith will be counted on to jump to varsity ball as sophomores.
Smith has a solid sports background. Like Brooks, he’s a Wilkes County native, although he didn’t know Brooks until he came to South.
Smith competed in track, basketball and football at Wilkes Central High and was a captain in all three sports. His basketball coach was Tommy Johnson, who has won 400 games in a distinguished career that has taken him to several schools.
“I knew in high school I wanted to coach, and Coach Johnson is still the biggest influence on my career,” Smith said. “His teams were never the most talented, but we were always the hardest-working. We never got out-hustled. That’s the same philosophy I’ve tried to take with me as a coach.”
Smith was a good 6-2 forward in basketball ó “I could dunk” ó but football was his best sport. He played tight end at Appalachian State two seasons until knee surgeries cut his career short.
After graduation, he began student teaching and coaching at East Burke, then moved on to Alexander Central.
He’d barely heard of South Rowan until he saw a listing for a P.E. opening. Those are like gold to aspiring coaches.
Smith was hired at South as a P.E/Health teacher and assistant football coach in the summer of 2005. He also expected to coach the jayvee boys basketball team.
But then he encountered Brooks ó he’d played high school basketball with Brooks’ cousin ó and was intrigued by the idea of helping turn around a girls basketball program that had been struggling for respect.
“I saw what South’s records had been and wanted to try to help Jim if I could,” Smith said. “I was nervous at first, but coaching girls turned out to be a great thing. Girls have no egos. They listen to you. They’ll do what you tell them to do. They’ll get after it for you.”
South principal Don Knox has been impressed by Smith, not just for the steady wins he’s produced, but for the solid GPAs his teams have turned out. He didn’t have to look far to find a replacement when Brooks wanted to spend more time with his family.
Smith’s wife (Kristal) is a coach and teacher at Central Cabarrus. They’ve settled in Concord.
Now Smith starts a higher-profile chapter in a coaching career that’s off to a good start.
“This program will be about these girls, not about me,” Smith said. “We’ve had some success in the past, but I haven’t done anything yet at the varsity level.”