Although a long way from home, Smalls happy
Since community college athletics lack the opportunity to fly around the nation to scout and recruit athletes, it’s rare to find an athlete playing more than 1,200 miles from home. That’s where building connections becomes important for coaches.
Meet Greg Smalls, a 6’3” 180 lb. work-horse out of Charleston, South Carolina.
“He’s a gym rat,” NIACC men’s coach Bryan Martin said of Smalls who spends two hours a day in the gym during the off-season and one hour a day lifting weights.
“He’s probably the hardest working freshman I’ve ever coached,” Martin said.
Martin said he found Smalls through Brett Swanson, a person who he met while he spent time coaching at Indian Hills Community College. Swanson runs a recruiting service called “Swanny’s Roundball Review,” an East Coast recruiting service out of the Carolinas.
“We liked what we saw on tape of him,” Martin said. “We trusted Brett and the rest was history.”
The move to the Midwest took a little adjusting for Smalls. “The culture is a lot different up here, back home we’re a lot more laid back,” Smalls said. “They call it the ‘Gullah Culture’ where I live and it includes the people that live along the coast from Savannah to Charleston. People say I talk slower, like I’m from Jamaica but it’s just the culture I grew up in.”
Food is a different story. “There’s no seafood or grits either,” Smalls laughed.
Martin said Smalls has turned out fine. “He’s a coach’s dream,” Martin said. “You don’t have to worry about him off the court, he takes care of his academics and that’s very important.”
Smalls played one year of prep basketball at Elden Academy in Petoskey, Michigan before coming to NIACC. It was a place where Smalls said he could improve his game playing among the nation’s top collegiate prospects.
This future Computer Science major said he likes playing for NIACC because of the hometown support the basketball team gets. “It’s a good feeling when we go out to eat after a game and people come up to you and say, ‘hey good game.’ Back in Michigan we had no fan support,” Smalls said.
Smalls is a mature person according to his coach. “He plays and acts like a sophomore,” Martin said. “He acts like he’s done it before.”
His teammates like what he brings to the court. “He’s an all around, complete player,” Yusuf Vinson, a teammate of Smalls, said. “He can shoot, defend, rebound and pass.”
Smalls is putting up 10 points, five assists, and three steals per game for the Trojans. Smalls said he plays the ‘role player’ role this year. “I leave the scoring up to Master Irvin, Yusuf, and De’Lain Riley,” Smalls said.
During high school, Smalls played on an AAU team called the “Beach Ball Select,” the same team that former North Carolina Tar Heel standout Raymond Felton played on.
Smalls made a name for himself during his playing days with class 4-A West Ashley High School in Charleston, SC. Smalls broke the school’s all time blocked shots and rebound record with 300 and 600 respectively. He also sits second all-time in school history with 960 points.
“If I’m not at the gym, I’m usually at my apartment studying,” Smalls, who is maintaining a 3.0 GPA, said. Though Smalls will no longer have to worry about devastating hurricanes, he will have to shift his attention to crippling snowstorms.