Rogers coach Lamar Smith shouts instructions to his team. The Rams (24-5) advanced to the state semifinals for the first time in school history.
What began as a father-daughter bonding activity has blossomed into a successful coaching career for Lamar Smith.
Smith completed his fourth season as Rogers girls basketball coach.
A disappointing 50-47 loss to Kettering Alter in a Division II state semifinal put an end to an otherwise highly successful season.
The best season in school history has led to Smith being named The Blade’s girls coach of the year.
“It was a great experience,” Smith said. “We had a lot of fun. We made history.”
And plenty of it.
The Rams (24-5) won a third straight City League championship and improved to 44-3 against CL opponents during the last four years. They also won a regional championship to get to the state semifinals for the first time.
With a roster loaded with talent, Rogers entered the season with lofty expectations. During the Christmas break, the Rams traveled to Florida to play against some of the nation's top teams.
A 1991 Start graduate, Smith, who was also named the Ohio D-II co-coach of the year, started coaching basketball when his daughter, Jasmyne, was in grade school. He's been coaching Jasmyne, a senior, and some of her classmates ever since.
“It’s been a very family-oriented close group,” Smith said. “They’ll always have that even when they move on and go about with their lives.
“Sasha [Dailey] is just special. Keyanna [Austin], Marquelle [Williams] and Tori [Easley], we really have gotten close. We’ve been through a lot and have spent a lot of time together between practice and games. I’m going to miss them.”
The seniors have been key to the Rams going 84-20 in four seasons.
Smith, who works at Rogers as a security officer, considers retired coaches Ben Williams (Scott) and Leroy Bates (Libbey) as influences.
“Ben Williams, I went to some of his camps,” Smith said. “My dad took me to a lot of Scott games when I was growing up. I got to watch a lot of what he was doing. I heard the history of how he worked with his athletes and getting them into schools [colleges].
“You kind of take that on and say, ‘Hey, it’s not just about high school, but it’s good to see them going to the next level.’ That’s what I’m trying to do for the girls. Take that step that he was doing and getting our kids into college.”
Three members of last year’s team, including Cha’Ron Sweeney (Eastern Michigan), are playing in college. Jasmyne Smith (Miami), Dailey (Eastern Michigan), Easley (Eastern Michigan), and Williams (Lamar) will be the next Rams playing in college. Akienreh Johnson and Brelynn Hampton-Bey have already verbally committed to Michigan, while Keasja Peace and Sidney Petty are on plenty of college coaches' radars.
Reaching Columbus for the state semifinals was special for the team.
“It was very exciting to make it that far,” Smith said. “It was a great experience because not everyone can make it to the final four.
“I’ve talked to a number of coaches who are great coaches, but have never been to the final four. For us to make it there it was a big step for this program.”
With plenty of underclassmen, the Rams figure to be a preseason favorite next year.
“I’m very happy about what we do have coming back,” Smith said. “We have four veteran players that have a taste of it. Sidney, Akienreh, Keasja, and Brelynn Hampton-Bey are four girls who’ve been to the final four. They know what it takes.”