The Louisiana Sports Writers Association


Louisiana Mr. Basketball 2018

Written for the LSWA

Scotlandville High boys basketball coach Carlos Sample understands the irony each time he implores guard Ja’Vonte Smart to go home after a game.

The guy who plays light out just about every night also is the guy who wants to keep the lights on in the school’s gymnasium.

“It doesn’t matter, win or lose,” Sample said. “Ja’Vonte is in the gym working to get better. I’ll say, ‘Why don’t you go home and rest.’ But no, he’ll stay and work on his shot or on something else. He’s driven that way.”

That drive has helped Smart do something no other sophomore has done – win the Farm Bureau/Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s Mr. Basketball award.

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Smart also is the first player from Scotlandville to win the award selected by a panel of sportswriters from across the state.

Smart led the Hornets to a 34-3 record with averages of 22.4 points, 7.2 assists and 6.9 rebounds a game. He was previously voted Gatorade’s Louisiana Player of the Year.

“Sometimes I don’t know how to express myself,” Smart said with a shy smile. “I don’t like coming across as cocky. I’ve always felt that when you do something good you shouldn’t brag about.

“Success and awards are nice and I’m blessed to have them. I don’t get the big head. When you do that, I think you stop getting better. You should always have fun playing the game. But to get better, you’ve got to work.”

Some of the improvements in Smart’s game came naturally. He grew over an inch and put on between 15 and 20 pounds. The nation’s top point guard prospect for 2018 has always been able to find open teammates. He unveiled an improved outside shooting touch as a sophomore.

“His vision on the court is incredible and he’s got a high basketball IQ,” Sample said. “Ja’Vonte sees and knows where his teammates are and he loves to pass them the ball and make them better.

“Well, he put in the time and his shot has really improved. He knows even better now when to make plays.”

Another Baton Rouge area coach, Madison Prep’s Jeff Jones, offers another analogy.

“When he was a freshman last year, I thought Ja’Vonte played like a senior or a guy in his first year of college,” Jones said. “This year I thought he played like a college sophomore. The game came so easily to him.

“One night he might score 50 points and the next he could have 20 assists. The beauty of it is he doesn’t care one way or another. I’ve known Ja’Vonte since he was eight or nine. He’s always been very humble and hard-working. He’s consistent.”

Given his work ethic, it’s only natural for Smart to admire another tireless worker, suxh as Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. Asked who his biggest influences are, Smart lists his mother, Kevin Durant and Sample.

In turn, Sample likes to point out that Smart carries a 3.1 grade-point average in Scotlandville’s engineering magnet program.

Asked to sum up Smart is just a few words, Sample recounts Smart’s accomplishments and work ethic. Then it comes to him.

“He’s beyond his years in the way he works and understands things,” Sample said. “He gets it.”

And now Smart gets the LSWA’s top award too.

LA Farm Bureau/ Mr. Basketball award winners 

1996: Lester Earl, Glen Oaks 
1997: Marcus Fizer, Arcadia 
1998: Stromile Swift, Fair Park-Shreveport 
1999: Bernard King, Gibsland-Coleman 
2000: Chris Duhon, Salmen 
2001: Donald Perry, McCall-Tallulah 
2002: Darrel Mitchell Jr., St. Martinville 
2003: Paul Millsap, Grambling Lab 
2004: Glen Davis, University 
2005: Tasmin Mitchell, Denham Springs 
2006: Demond Carter, Reserve Christian 
2007: Greg Monroe, Helen Cox 
2008: Greg Monroe, Helen Cox 
2009: Joevoskie Mitchell, Zwolle
2010: Markel Brown, Peabody
2011: Ricardo Gathers, Riverside Academy
2012: Dee Wagner, Peabody
2013: Jarell Martin, Madison Prep
2014: Reginal Johnson Jr., Richwood 
2015: Brandon Sampson, Madison Prep
2016: Ja'Vonte Smart, Scotlandville
2017: Ja'Vonte Smart, Scotlandville
2018: Ja'Vonte Smart, Scotlandville