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Troy's Kianna Smith is the Register's Orange County girls basketball player of the year. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Troy's Kianna Smith is the Orange County girls basketball player of the year

STAFF WRITER

FULLERTON – It’s a short saunter from the Troy High campus to Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym. The crosswalk across State College Blvd. bridges Kianna Smith with two of her primary hoop influences - her father, John, and older brother, Jamal.

John – an associate head coach for the Titans men’s team – was the first one to put a basketball in Kianna’s hands. Today, he’s the one who breaks down film with his daughter, offering a coach’s perspective on her game.

Being just two years her elder, Jamal – a redshirt freshman on Cal State Fullerton’s team – was the first opponent Kianna came to know on the court. Playing backyard ball with the boys is largely why the Troy senior had such success on the high school court, thriving against anyone, including the nation’s best this past week in Chicago at the McDonald’s All-American game.

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ALL-COUNTY GIRLS BASKETBALL

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Regarded as one of the top talents in the nation, the Cal-bound Smith averaged 21.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, close to four assists and three steals a game. Her production and basketball savvy on the court only took a backseat to the influence she had on a team filled with unproven underclassmen.

In taking an under-the-radar Troy team to the CIF Open Division semifinals, Kianna Smith has been named the Register’s Orange County player of the year.

“If there’s ever a team that overachieved, that was this team,” Warriors coach Roger Anderson said. “And it’s directed to one person. It all stated with Kianna in the summer.”

Having graduated a pair of Division I talents and 10 total seniors from a season ago, Anderson assembled what was the most difficult schedule he has put together in his tenure at Troy, and did so with a roster made up of three senior contributors and seven fresh-faced varsity rookies.

Smith – typically a silent assassin on the court – took a more vocal approach early in the summer months. When sophomore Michelle Lee struggled to find her stroke from beyond the arc in pickup games, Smith was the one in her ear telling her to keep firing away. She took freshmen twins Anaiyah and Aaliyah Tu’ua under her wing and did the same, a soon-to-be All-American consistently feeding the sisters the ball despite their having zero varsity minutes to their names.

Smith’s unselfishness and ability to make the right basketball play is how her game can best be described.

“We knew we were going to be really young and inexperienced, but I think it was just about forming and giving our young players confidence,” she said. “So when we get into tougher games, they were ready. They stepped up big for us.”

While the fluidity of her game made Troy’s success look easy at times, it was anything but. In rolling through another unbeaten Freeway League season, the Warriors were named the 12th seed in the Open Division playoff bracket. Smith and Co. knocked off an Alemany of Mission Hills in the opening round, and followed that up with an overtime victory against Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth in which Smith made her last eight shots from the field to finish with a game-high 24 points.

The Warriors lost to Long Beach Poly in the CIF-SS semifinals, and were knocked out in the opening round of the Open Division regionals, but in that game Troy gave eventual state champion Clovis West of Fresno one of its toughest games of the season in a 68-61 affair.

Smith went for 22 points against Clovis West, and at the end of the night, she signed autographs for a handful of youngsters who brought pad and paper to the game in hopes of getting a keepsake from one of the evening’s stars.

“Her character, you can’t approach it,” Anderson said. “She’s so good at letting things come to her and she’s so humble. It was really nice for her to take the time and sign autographs for those girls. That’s what grows the sport. Those girls will never forget that.”

Contact the writer: kconnolly@scng.com


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