Danville's Smith delivers
CHAMPAIGN — Danville’s Denzel Smith is trying something new and different this spring. The senior is high-jumping on the track and field team.
“It’s OK,” Smith said.
Saturday night, the 6-foot-7 All-Area standout returned to the basketball court at Parkland College and did better than OK.
He scored a game-high 34 points and led Team Gold to a 116-102 triumph over Team Black in the third annual Parkland College/News-Gazette all-star game.
The recent Wabash Valley Community College signee had simple goals for the night.
“I wanted to have fun playing with family and friends,” Smith said. “It feels good to be back on the court.”
The teams traded leads until another Danville athlete, Kylen Butler, nailed his third three-pointer with 16 minutes, 59 seconds remaining. His trey sent Team Gold ahead 61-60.
The Michael Finke-led Team Black squad was unable to catch up, and Team Gold built leads as much as 18 points.
St. Thomas More coach Matt Kelley was on the victorious sideline. He figured his team was coming in as the underdog with Area Player of the Year Finke, from Centennial, on the opposing roster.
“I assumed they’d be the favorites,” Kelley said, “but these games are to have fun. It’s basically throw the ball out and let them play.”
UI recruit Finke did that. He connected on his first 10 two-point shots and was the only player to finish with a double-double. He had 30 points and 10 rebounds.
“There wasn’t as much defense as in season,” Finke said.
Unlike many of the game’s other competitors, who have played little basketball since the high school season ended in March, Finke said, “I’ve been going non-stop every day. I’ve been running open gyms at the UI, and it’s awesome. I still have a lot of work to put in.”
Finke was impressed with what he saw from game MVP Smith.
“He has progressed so much since his freshman year,” Finke said. “He has a great future.”
Smith gave credit back to Finke.
“He’s a talented young man, but he knows I’m not going to back down,” Smith said. “It was good to get the win against Finke.”
Kelley, too, likes Smith’s potential and not just for his offensive prowess.
“He’s a good defender and alters shots,” Kelley said.
Five players scored in double figures for Kelley’s squad. Following Smith were Central’s Sean Suggs (21 points), Butler (17 points), St. Joseph-Ogden’s Nate Michael (16 points) and Central’s Kam Rowan (14 points). Salt Fork’s Max Stutsman was the game’s top rebounder with 11.
In putting his lineup together, Kelley said he sought a balancing act.
“I tried to mix and match and get them even,” he said.
Coaches from each team had 10-player rosters.
For Team Black, Rantoul’s Johnny Jones scored 17 points and Centennial’s Dedric Byrd hit 14 points.
Michael won the three-point shooting contest, drilling 13 of 15 attempts.