By Astasia Williams
It’s two hours before game time at Curie High School. There’s one player shooting from the three-point line and 10 more under the hoop fighting for the rebound. Another player sits on the bleachers with his head bowed, blasting the new J. Cole song False Prophets through his Beats headphones.
During the holiday break, all of Curie’s the legal-age players went to get tattoos. Smith remains without one. “His parents don’t play that,” coach Mike Oliver said.
“I like to stay in my own zone,” Smith said. “Staying humble and not taking things for granted is something my father preaches to me constantly.”
Smith is unique and successful both on the court and in the classroom. He’s one of Curie’s most productive players and also an A student. Tackling honors classes and helping lead a defending state championship team may seem like an abundance of work, but Smith gets it all done.
Smith is a native of Chicago’s West Side, an area plagued by crime. His father tried his best to ensure Terry didn’t fall in with the wrong crowds.
“I wanted to be the male role model, a father that I didn’t get a chance to experience,” said Terry Smith Sr. “I saw when he was 5 years old, sports would be his way to become a better man and have a better future.”
The younger Smith’s inspiration started at home. Terry Smith Sr. played basketball at George Washington Carver Area High School (now Carver Military Academy). He graduated in 1984 as class Valedictorian and went to Purdue, where he earned his degree.
Exceptional grades are the standard in the Smith household. Smith Jr. is on track to graduate with honors. His twin sisters, Tia and Tyra, attend Lindblom Math and Science Academy, a selective enrollment high school in West Englewood.
“My sisters are the smartest people that I know. They get all A’s,” Smith Jr. said. “They love to sit and watch the Discovery Channel. I don’t know how they do it to be honest.”
Smith Jr. currently has a 4.2 GPA and a 23 ACT score. His goal is to attend a college on a basketball scholarship and major in business administration.
“I want to be my own boss,” Smith Jr. said. “I don’t want basketball to be my whole life. And I want to have my own business, then give back to the community. Right now, there isn’t enough role models for people my age. No one can relate to us. As a big brother, I want my sisters to know what man they should have a future with.”
While Smith is an exceptional student, he’s also a main factor in the Condors’ success. He is currently the team’s leading rebounder and has scored in double digits in 95 percent of games this season. His coaches and teammates call him the ‘do-all’ player and leader.
“Off the court, you wouldn’t know TJ is around. He’s just so quiet and to himself,” team captain Elijah Joiner said. “But on the court he is the loudest person in the gym and constantly encouraging us to keep our energy up.”
“TJ is one of those well-rounded student-athletes,” Condors coach Mike Oliver said.
Smith has enough focus and support at home to make sure he continues to succeed in every arena.
“I want to be a contributor,” said Smith while taking some practice shots, “on the court and in the community. I want to contribute to do something great.”