Prep Boys Basketball

Blue Devils' Smith gets in right mindset to break out of slump

Jimmy Jay Simmons
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 15, 2018 12:01 am Updated: Feb. 15, 2018 2:24 am

It is considered a coaching cliche, but Jaeden Smith believes the premise wholeheartedly.

Effort should never go in a slump.

So while the Quincy High School junior guard works to overcome his shooting struggles, his effort and enthusiasm for playing defense has never waned.

"I love taking charges. I love playing defense. I love getting steals. Defense is fun," Smith said. "People don't like playing defense, but I think it's pretty fun. That's where our offense starts off. Our team thrives off defense."

It's where he's had to find his energy.

He scored in double figures all four games and went 10 of 28 from 3-point range during the Blue Devils' 3-1 showing at the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic, but life since has been a series of dwindling results.

Smith reached double figures only twice in the first seven games of 2018 and made two or more 3-pointers twice. He had two games where he failed to make a trey and was a collective 8 of 37 (21.6 percent) from beyond the arc.

"(Assistant coach Tom) Lepper is always telling me, every coach is telling me in practice that it's a mindset," said Smith, who has battled a right wrist injury all season but hasn't let it sideline him. "My mindset hasn't been very good when I don't see the ball go in, but when it goes in, I feel great."

That wasn't happening enough.

"I've been in a slump for a while," Smith said. "This season hasn't been as good as I thought it was going to be individually. As a team, we've been really good, but individually, I feel like I could do more for the team."

It started to happen again on Saturday.

Smith scored in transition on three occasions and finished with 13 points. He didn't make a 3-pointer, but he didn't need one. All he needed was to see the ball go through the net.

"When you're in a slump like that for so long, it's not physical. It's mental," QHS senior point guard Aaron Shoot said. "He's a good enough player, and he's been such a good shooter for so long, you knew he'd come around. It's good to get him out of that mindset."

The Blue Devils were confident Smith would snap back.

"It's non-stop," Shoot said of the encouragement the Blue Devils give Smith. "We keep telling him to shoot the ball. We know he's not going to make shots if he doesn't shoot it. We know he's one of the best shooters out there. Even when he is in a slump, he's still a pretty good shooter. It's constant encouragement, constant positive reinforcement."

It kept Smith in the best frame of mind possible.

"I've been in slumps before, and I know how to approach it," Smith said. "I'm approaching it the way I normally would and plan to finish off the season on a good note."

That just might help the Blue Devils make a little history.

By winning one of their final two Western Big Six Conference games, they will win the league championship outright and capture three straight league crowns for the first time since winning the WB6 for seven straight years from 1977-83.

The Blue Devils also are on the verge of a third straight 20-win season and should be favored to win the Class 4A regional being held at Blue Devil Gym. Quincy hasn't won a regional championship since 2009.

Accomplish all three of those things, and the slump with be a complete afterthought.

"We know what's at stake," Smith said. "We're going to come out every night just playing that game. We're going to worry about the game that's at hand and nothing else. We're very confident in what we can do as a team."

That's the right kind of mindset to have.