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Basketball: Smith finds home at Denmark after King's Ridge program dissolves
Sophie Smith
Denmark sophomore Sophie Smith is averaging more than 17 points per game this season. Smith joined the Danes after transferring from King’s Ridge, which did not have enough players this year to field a girls basketball team. - photo by David Almeda

Sophie Smith thought her next two years were planned out.

Coming off a successful freshman year of basketball at King’s Ridge Christian, she’d play her second year with the Tigers before joining her older brother, Sutton, at Denmark to start her junior season.

But she didn’t stay in the private school ranks with total confidence. There was a potential scenario that would throw a wrench in her curated plan: her team simply ceasing to exist. As a 1A program, King’s Ridge only had eight players on its girls basketball roster for the 2018-19 season, and it was possible that there just wouldn’t be enough players in Smith’s sophomore year.

“I decided to stay at my old school knowing that there was a possibility of not having a team and just training,” Smith said. “But it was definitely scary – very, very scary.”

In the end, those concerns had merit. After just two games, King’s Ridge disbanded its girls basketball team, leaving Smith without a squad to play on in the middle of the high school basketball season. She had to make a choice: Make an early transition to Denmark in the middle of the school year, or stay at King’s Ridge and train without a team until her junior year. Her competitive nature wouldn’t allow her to wait that long.

“I talked to my family a lot and just decided that if I was going to move the next year, that there was no (point) in waiting, so I may as well do it now.

“I just knew I needed to play at some point and I couldn’t not play high school basketball.”

Attending a new school much bigger than her old one was a challenge in and of itself, but Smith has adjusted quite well. Since joining the Danes after Thanksgiving break, she’s averaged 17.5 points per game. She scored 27 and 25, respectively, against Blessed Trinity and Dawson County, connecting on six 3-pointers against the latter.

With Sutton being a leader on Denmark’s defending region champion boys basketball team, the comparisons to Sophie are inevitably made. Denmark girls coach Jamie Maxey knows both of them well, and she’s thrilled to have a Smith on her team, too.

“They’re definitely different in terms of their strengths and weaknesses, but she can flat-out score the ball,” Maxey said. “Ninety-five percent of the games we’ve played, she’s been face guarded, if not double-teamed. For her to still average 17 and a half a game, she just creates and finishes some shots that most kids aren’t able to.”

Sophie Smith
Denmark sophomore Sophie Smith’s brother, Sutton Smith, is a junior on the Danes’ boys basketball team. - photo by David Almeda
In their second season of existence, Denmark’s girls have made strides after their tumultuous inaugural year. Smith’s had to learn the Danes’ system quickly, but overall, getting a player of her caliber has already made an impact on a team that’s still very young.

“The difference between last year and this year is night and day already, and to add her into the mix, it really allows our kids to focus on even more defined roles, where before we had kids trying to do five different things,” Maxey said.

For Smith, making the mid-season move to Denmark had off-the-court challenges as well. She attended for the first time right before Thanksgiving to get a feel for it, but besides getting used the sheer size and number of students compared to King’s Ridge, making new friends was also of great importance. It took her about a month to fully get adjusted to her new surroundings, and having her brother there certainly helped.

“I think it helped basketball-wise because (the boys) play after us, so it was good to be able to spend more time with him because it’s our last few years in high school. I don’t see him a lot, but when I do, it’s fun.”

On the court, though, she’s already made good friends, ones she hopes to celebrate and win with in the next few years.

“They’re super,” Smith said. “I’m super grateful for how they let me come in and stuff, because I know it’s hard having a new player, especially one that has a bigger role, so I was super grateful for them all. I love them. They’re awesome.”