Dorian Smith was an all-city second team selection during his senior year at Topeka High in 2002 and played at Metropolitan State University of Denver where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree and later earned his MBA from the University of Phoenix. Dorian currently resides in Denver, Colorado with his wife and son.
I can’t say that my life was easy growing up in Topeka.
There were a lot of obstacles that I had to push through in life. Growing up in Central Topeka, the environment consisted of a lot of hustling, partying, drunkenness, gang-banging, thieves, drug addicts, and killings. There was also a lot of love along with care, school and going to church with my cousins, which it all made me the man that I am today.
But death surrounded me.
My baseball coach, Tim Riley, got kidnapped, put in a trunk, and killed when I was younger. When I was in middle school my brother’s friend, Nick Price, that lived up the street from us, was accidentally killed by his older brother. In high school, a good friend that I grew up with, Ross Griffin, was killed at his birthday party. My best friend, Ontario Johnson, was killed a couple years later.
I could be here all day talking about who was close to me that I’ve lost, but one thing that was for sure is that basketball was my escape from it all. Basketball helped me cope with a lot of things that were going on in my life. I played all sports up until around 8th grade, but fell in love with basketball. I would walk to the park to play basketball almost everyday when I was younger and the older I got, the more I would go to any gym that I could find that had the best runs. I’m still thankful for everything that I grew up around because it taught me what not to do along with being able to understand different aspects in life. It made me appreciate a lot more things in the future as well knowing that I’ve seen worse.
I used academics and basketball as a tool to help me succeed in life. I wanted to be different than just a basketball player, but a basketball player that was smart in the classroom as well. I carried a 3.75 GPA at Topeka High. I had basketball offers from every junior college in Kansas and some low-Division I schools out of high school. All of my applications got accepted to Big 12 colleges because of my academics. I had the option to walk-on to major schools and get academic money from them as well. I had an Ivy League school (Dartmouth) offering a basketball scholarship, but didn’t go because it wasn’t a major basketball school. My focus was on basketball first with knowing that I wanted to be at the top of the class in academics just in case. I was only focused on going to a major Division I school for basketball first along with academic money if they would give me that as well.
For basketball players looking to continue their careers in college I have some advice: Keep God first and be a standout in the classroom as well as on the basketball court. Second, if basketball (or any other sport) is your first love and it’s what you want to do, then go to a high school that has good academics (considering you have good grades) and find out if they will put the best players on the floor without politics being involved.
If you have confidence as a basketball player, then know that you don’t have to go to a major Division I school. If you don’t get a scholarship to go major then go to a mid-major program where you have a good chance to play along with a chance to make the NCAA tournament. We know that going to the top schools in any division is a blessed opportunity. If it’s not the top school in the division, then know that getting any type of scholarship for basketball is a blessing because it allows you to get a FREE education.
If you don’t have the grades and have to go JUCO, then go with a coach that cares about academics and has a great coaching resume. I’ve been on both sides of the grass with coaches who did and didn’t care about their players. The college that has a coach who cares about his players and who is willing to help you maximize your talent as well as opportunities in life will probably be the best place to go for high school along with college. A great coach will take your basketball game, IQ, and life skills further than you can imagine.
I chose to go Johnson County Community College out of high school on a basketball scholarship and I received money for maintaining a certain GPA. My plan was to play well enough in JUCO to receive a major college scholarship for basketball. I didn’t even take into account on how much of an impact a coach will play in deciding on your next move in furthering your education. I didn’t receive the notices from a lot of schools that were calling my head coach in regards to offering scholarships. I had to take the matters into my own hands and went to Jerry Mullen’s camp in the summer to showcase my talent.
After the camp I got calls from mid-majors, top Division II schools and NAIA schools. I ended up taking four visits to schools. I went to Harding University in Arkansas on an athletic scholarship and transferred to Metro St. in Denver on athletic scholarship for my last year of eligibility. Being in a big city like Denver opened up a lot of basketball opportunities for me. I was able to practice in the summer with NBA players from the Denver Nuggets like Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin, and Chris Andersen. I was going to play in the CBA that fall, but decided to finish my half-semester of school to graduate. I took 21 credit hours (seven classes) that semester to finish my degree with a 3.0 GPA to graduate.
The following spring I played in the IBL league in Aurora and in the summer of 2008, I was invited by Nuggets assistant coach John Welch to practice with their summer league team. From there I was able to develop more skills to pursue an opportunity to play overseas in Finland. In 2010, I won $1,000 for taking 1st place at the Sprite Slam Dunk contest hosted by NBA Nation in Denver during Cinco de Mayo weekend. I graduated that summer with my MBA degree.
No matter what city that I went to school whether it was Overland Park, Searcy, or Denver I always managed to find a church to attend. I wasn’t able to further my basketball career like I had wanted to due suffering a shoulder injury. Despite having the injury, I feel that when it comes to basketball I did a lot for myself, but the problem with having to do a lot for myself is that I didn’t get the proper advice or help that I needed to go to the next level. I didn’t mind at all putting the work in with basketball no matter how hard it was, but to have someone help me to push myself a little harder than what I was already pushing would have helped me out tremendously.
Sometimes I tell myself that if I were to have my exact talents and was a son of a knowledgeable basketball coach or just a person that is being treated like a son from a knowledgeable coach, then I would have had a greater chance to take basketball to another level. My dad was around, but didn’t help me with anything in sports. I can’t even recollect him giving me any advice on life lessons in general. Everything happens for a reason though.
I still had my academics to back me up in life. I’m currently working at the corporate office of Level 3 Communications as a project manager in the professional services department and I have a beautiful wife and a 22-month old son.
I just give God all the glory for everything and know that he has along with always will have my back.