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High School Sports

James Smith’s patience at St. John Bosco pays off in scholarship offers

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St. John Bosco defensive back James Smith has picked up more than 10 scholarship offers.
(Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times)

Not everyone gets to play, especially at a football powerhouse like St. John Bosco High in Bellflower. Most underclassmen have to wait their turn. Only the elite play early in their career because the roster has so many talented players.

Sometimes a player’s most desirable attributes are patience and a willingness to learn from the talented players in front of him. That’s what the St. John Bosco coaching staff loves about defensive back James Smith.

Smith has patiently waited for his opportunity behind a pair of four-star cornerbacks, but now Chris Steele is headed to Oregon and Trent McDuffie will be playing for Washington in the fall. It’s Smith’s time now.

“Really I just want to prove myself. When you look at me, you know I have the size,” the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Smith said. “That’s what a lot of people look at, but I want to show people that it’s more than just size. You know I can actually play.”

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He’s already earning praise and attention from college programs, picking up more than 10 scholarship offers, including from Pac-12, Southeastern and Big Ten schools. Smith isn’t content. He is planning to go to multiple college football satellite camps that are being held in Southern California this summer to show his skills. He also wants to go to Washington’s camp and has plans to take some of his official visits this summer.

Smith has taken unofficial visits to Arizona State, Michigan, Oregon, Penn State, UCLA and Washington State. He knows he wants to return to the Midwest for official visits to Penn State and Michigan and said he thinks he will set up an official visit to Nevada, which was the first school to offer him a scholarship. UCLA could be in the mix as well.

“I like UCLA a lot because it’s really beautiful now. They’ve updated it so much and it’s close to home,” Smith said. “I feel like I can really fit in there just based off of their defense, based off their coverage. I was talking to [former Bosco safety Stephan] Blaylock a lot. He’s just talking about how he loves their DB coach, coach [Paul] Rhoads. I just really want to be a part of that.”

Smith wants to take his official visits in the next few weeks, so he can possibly make a commitment at the end of June.

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Each time Smith steps onto a college campus, he’s examining the culture of the school and the football program, saying he wants to feel like he’s at home and around people who care about him.

“From the outside looking in, you know exactly what you like,” Smith said. “There’s the football. There’s the schooling. Then once you talk to the people, once you’re around the coaching staff, teachers, everything just kind of plays itself out.”

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On the football side, Smith’s top concerns are defensive fit and the potential for early playing time.

“Can I come in and make a big impact freshman year, sophomore year?” he said. “Just will I be successful at the school?”

Schools have been impressed by Smith’s speed and how prepared he is despite having little game experience at St. John Bosco. It’s part of the reason he did not transfer to get more playing time elsewhere.

“By the time I’m in college, I’m already pretty much ready cause what we go through here is a college environment,” Smith said. “I’m being prepared more than a lot of kids, but I’ve got to just keep working because, in reality, tomorrow it can all go away. So just staying patient, stay humble, keep working.”


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