February 24, 2021

Utilizing Qualities Developed on the Football Field, Smith Emerges as a Force for Hun Boys’ Hoops

APPLYING PRESSURE: Hun School boys’ basketball player Kelvin Smith, right, pressures a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, senior guard/forward Smith contributed 13 points, four rebounds, two assists, and one steal to help Hun post a 58-41 win over Princeton Day School. The Raiders, who improved to 4-1 with the victory, are scheduled to host Pennington on February 25, Peddie School on February 27, and the Patrick School on March 2. (Photo by Lexi Thomas)

By Bill Alden

Kelvin Smith’s explosiveness and physicality helped him emerge as a star wide receiver and linebacker for the Hun School football team.

This winter, Smith is applying those gridiron qualities to the basketball court, excelling for the Hun boys’ hoops team.

“Football has definitely helped my cutting in basketball,” said senior guard/forward Smith, a powerfully-built 6’4, 220-pounder.

“When I cut now, I am really good at faking out defenders and not letting them know which way I am going. It feels like running a route. Physical-wise, I feel like nobody on the court is too big to stop me. After playing football, the aggressiveness and tenacity I have is very different from everybody else. It helps me get to the basket easier. It definitely helps me in grabbing rebounds over people and getting loose balls.”

Last Saturday in a 58-41 win over the Princeton Day School, Smith displayed his aggressiveness, tallying 13 points with four rebounds, two assists, and one steal.

“I thought the team performed really well overall; I thought it was a good game,” said Smith, reflecting on the victory which was the third straight for the Raiders as they improved to 4-1.

“This past week, COVID was throwing our schedule off a little bit. We wanted to see if we could get back in that rhythm and we did. I think everybody played well.”

Despite dealing with stops and starts due to COVID and weather issues, Hun is finding a groove.

“I feel like we are playing with confidence right now,” said Smith.

“Even though the record isn’t everything, I think that is contributing to the win streak that we have going right now. We are playing with a lot of confidence and that is helping us on the court, defensively and offensively.”

Smith is looking to contribute in any way possible this winter in his final campaign for the Raiders.

“As a senior captain, I feel like my role is to be a leader for the team,” said Smith.

“Sometimes we get rushed a little bit so I feel like it’s my job to keep the team under control and to find the open man when somebody is open and to take the open shot when I am open. It is a little bit of everything. I feel like if we need a basket, I can use a screen and get to the basket. If we need a jump shot, I can pass to one of my teammates or take a shot if I see it.”

Improving his offensive game has been a key focus for Smith.

“Coming into this year, I worked on my shooting the most,” said Smith.

“I have been seeing an improvement in the past couple of games; that is really good to see because it is giving me more confidence. It is giving my teammates more confidence to hit me when I am open. It is definitely helping our offense to take the next step, especially with shooters like Jack [Scott] and Dan [Vessey].”

Looking ahead to competing at the next level, Smith recently committed to attend Yale University and is hoping to play both football and basketball for the Bulldogs.

“I was offered for football and then the basketball coach at Yale [James Jones] who used to coach my dad in high school called me up,” recalled Smith.

“If you want to play basketball, you can have that here also. My final three was Cornell for basketball, Harvard for football and then Yale for football. It was an easy but hard choice. I didn’t know that I had the chance to play basketball at Yale and so when he called me, that helped me make my decision.”

Hun head coach Jon Stone credits Smith with helping the squad all over the floor.

“Kelvin’s leadership has been really good all year long,” said Stone.

“He is just so versatile for us. We play him on the ball a lot and yet we play him off the ball. He is such a good defender, he just gives us incredible versatility. He has been playing really well. He is a stat sheet stuffer. He just tends to have high numbers in points, rebounds, blocks, and assists every night. He has taken charges and different things like that. He is not always our leading scorer but he recognizes that there is so much more value to him. He gives us so much in every category.”

While Stone acknowledged that the Raiders didn’t excel in every category in their win over PDS, he did see good defensive intensity from his players.

“We have really been improving defensively, I thought defensively we did a really nice job,” said Stone.

“Offensively, we struggled a lot. We didn’t shoot the ball well. We shot 30 percent for the game. We are still looking to find our offensive rhythm a little bit.”

Sharp-shooting sophomore guard Dan Vessey provided a lot of the offense for Hun against the Panthers, tallying 24 points.

“Dan has been playing well, he is a really good scorer,” said Stone.

“He can not only shoot the ball but he just finds ways; he has a really good knack for the game. He always seems to be on the right spot at the right time. It is really nice to have him on our side.”

It is also nice for the Raiders to have junior guard Jack Scott, who has emerged as a tenacious rebounder from the guard spot to go along with his shooting and passing prowess.

“Jack is just so aggressive on the glass; he is our leading rebounder as a guard,” said Stone, noting that Scott had 11 rebounds against PDS.

“His defensive game has really risen; he has turned into a really solid defender for us much like Kelvin, just doing a good job overall on the defensive. He can stuff the stat sheet too. He gets a lot of assists on top of those rebounds. He can score in multiple ways.”

In the frontcourt, juniors Isiaha Dickens and Toby Thornburg have been stepping up.

“Isiaha and Toby have taken their games to the next level from last year and have given us a lot,” said Stone.

“Isiaha is shooting the ball really well and has given us a nice inside presence. Toby has really turned into a nice defender as well and shown an ability to pass the ball really well too and stuff the stat sheets like Kelvin and Jack a little bit.”

As Hun heads down the homestretch of the 2021 campaign, Stone is looking for the squad to take things to a higher level.

“I am happiest about our defensive progress more than anything else,” said Stone, whose team is scheduled to host Pennington on February 25, Peddie School on February 27, and the Patrick School on March 2.

“The first game that we played I felt like our defense was really poor. I think we have really improved in that area. With our offense, we have yet to hit stride. It is not a question of if, it is a question of when. I look forward to the days when our offense starts clicking a little smoother.”

Smith, for his part, believes the team will keep making strides. “We are not taking any games for granted, given the situation that some teams are not even playing,” said Smith.

“Our goal is to go undefeated for the rest of the season. We have been doing really well and with the season we are looking at, I feel like we can keep that up.”