Smith is Wooden winner

GLENDALE — This is the time of year when the awards begin to roll in for Kenyatta Smith and, after leading the Flintridge Prep boys' basketball team to the CIF Southern Section Division 5-AA championship, that figures to be especially true this season for the Rebels' senior center.

On Wednesday, Smith received an award that, in terms of prestige, might just stand head and shoulders above the rest — as Smith himself did over most of his competition during the campaign — when he was bestowed the John R. Wooden High School Player of the Year Award for CIF Southern Section Division V.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity, I felt blessed to find out I won the John Wooden Award for our division," Smith said. "It's just very humbling and it's just a blessing."

Named for the legendary UCLA men's basketball coach, the Wooden Award honors the most outstanding player from each of the six CIF Southern Section divisions and the Los Angeles City Section. The 6-foot-8 Smith, who will attend Harvard University in the fall, averaged 19.8 points and 14.8 rebounds on the season and 22.6 points and 16 rebounds in the CIF Southern Section playoffs, which ended with the first CIF title in program history when the Rebels defeated Muir, 47-44, on March 5.

"[Seven] boys in the Southland win that, so it's a very select group of boys who are in there," Rebels Coach Garrett Ohara said. "For Kenyatta to get that is quite an accomplishment, quite an award.

"That's about the pinnacle of what he can get being down here in Southern California."

Smith will be presented with the award, which includes a plaque and a $500 endowment for the school's athletic fund, on April 8 at the Wooden Award Gala held at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

"Kenyatta is an incredible talent on the court, but he's also a terrific young man of character and kindness," Prep Headmaster Peter Bachmann said in a press release from the school. "We couldn't be prouder of him."

The winners of the high school award, which was created in 1994 and is voted on by a body of Southern California media members and prep sports experts, will be presented along with the men's and women's Wooden All-American collegiate teams.

Wooden, who presided over an unprecedented 10 national championships and an 88-game winning streak at UCLA, was the first and is one of only three people to have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and a coach. In addition to his unparalleled contributions to basketball, Wooden, who passed away in 2010, became widely recognized for his inspirational messages directed at success in life as well as athletics, embodied by his "Pyramid of Success" and proliferated through his extensive work as an author and public speaker.

"Not only is [Wooden] well known in basketball circles, but people that don't even know basketball, if they know John Wooden, they know that besides being an outstanding coach, he was a person of tremendous character," Ohara said. "The values that we are trying to teach, [Wooden] is the epitome of those, so Kenyatta's character is reflected, I think, in the award, as well."

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World