The GRIND: Sutton Smith, Denmark High School Basketball
Sutton Smith’s work doesn’t end when he leaves the locker room after practice or a game. Denmark boys basketball head coach Tyler Whitlock knows that from firsthand experience.
“There’s many nights (where) he’s texting me and saying, ‘Coach, did you see this on the game film with this team, or did you see where we could have done that?’” Whitlock said. “He’s very much the second coach.”
That’s the role of the point guard, which Smith, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, fully embodies for the Danes. When Smith is on the floor, the Danes’ offense runs through him. He takes pride not in a single killer aspect of his game, but in his ability to do a bit of everything: Pass, get to the hoop, shoot, defend, and help his teammates do all that, too.
“I think I’m actually pretty good at a lot of things, and it’s the combination of it all is where I can hurt you in multiple different ways,” Smith said.
And his success so far is undeniable. Smith has been Denmark’s top scorer, and he’s helped lead the Danes to a 7-3 overall mark and 2-1 start in region play, as of Tuesday.
Smith isn’t new to the county – he lived in the West Forsyth district before Denmark opened – but is newer to its basketball scene. He played his freshman year at King’s Ridge Christian, but after the coach and a number of players left the school after last season, Smith started looking more seriously into the opportunity at Denmark. And while the prospect of playing in a brand new program was intimidating, Smith has seen the Danes gel quickly.
“When you come into a program and only two guys have varsity experience, it’s definitely a daunting task looking at it,” Smith said. “But once we got on the court and started playing some basketball and figuring it out, it’s gotten easier every time we’ve done it.”
As one of the two players with varsity experience, Smith figured that he’d have a significant role on the team. He’s not a particularly loud and vocal player off the court, but Whitlock said Smith is “probably our loudest player” during games. He’s already earned a degree of autonomy rare among high school players.
“I kind of give him free rein, which is rare for me, because I like to have a little bit of control of my team,’ Whitlock said. “But I feel like he’s earned it in the work he’s put in and what he’s shown.”
Smith certainly doesn’t see any of the work as a chore. That’s reflected in how he finds inspiration in former NBA star Steve Nash, noted for his cerebral approach to the game, and how his basketball-watching is confined to Denmark’s gym: He attended the first Lambert-South Forsyth game of the season on one of the few Tuesdays during the season that Smith has free.
“I just love the game,” Smith said.