Freshman Jalen Carries On Smith Dynasty In Kalaheo Hoops
The expectations that come with playing Kalaheo varsity basketball were ingrained in Jalen Smith long ago.
Before his locally famous father, Alika, returned to campus to coach the Mustangs in 2010, grandfather Pete Smith had been the state’s most successful boys coach for nearly 20 seasons.
“My dad’s continuing where (the late Pete Smith) left off as a coach,” said Jalen. “I’ve always wanted to win a state championship for my dad, and I feel like I’m kind of playing for my papa, too.” Jalen is now set to make his own mark. He is the lone freshman expected to be in the rotation for Kalaheo’s varsity this winter.
Jalen’s basketball upbringing was not unlike that of Alika, with long hours spent in the gym trailing his father. Alika was 6 when father Pete was an assistant on Merv Lopes’ staff at Chaminade on the night the Swords beat No. 1 Virginia.
“Day in and day out, the one thing I looked forward to as a kid was going to practice,” Alika recalled. “Being around kept my dream alive. To be a part of the Chaminade-Virginia game was exciting. I remember it vividly.
“My wife (Sunshine) says I can’t remember anything, but when it comes to basketball, I know every detail,” he added. “Jalen was on the bench for our back-to-back state championships (at Kalaheo in 2012 and 2013). It means a lot to be a part of one.”
Alika can see some of his own love for the game in Jalen. “He’s eager, and it’s nice to see. He wants to get better, but he understands he has to put in the work, and I think he’ll do it.”
Jalen competed with the Hawaii-Select Team — also coached by his dad — during the summer, including trips to Anaheim and Las Vegas for national tournaments.
As Kalaheo prepares for the coming season, he finds himself surrounded by some of the most talented players in the state, notably Mustang Kupaa Harrison and transfer Caleb Gilmore. “I wasn’t really comfortable at first, but after awhile I became comfortable,” said Jalen. “Our practices are pretty competitive.”
He’s also looking forward to playing for his father. “He’s a very good coach to me,” said the son. “He’s hard on me at times, but we’re pretty close.”
Unlike Alika, who was a guard, Jalen currently is playing the No. 3 and 4 spots in practice. He stands at 6 feet 5 inches tall, making him one of the tallest players on the team along with Harrison, and he isn’t through yet. “The doctor says I have a few more inches in me,” he said.
“He’s been playing with the older guys for a while now in practice, so now it’s time for him to step up and contribute, now that he’s (officially) on the team,” noted coach/dad Alika.
“One thing that has surprised me is how he plays within himself. He never does anything he knows he can’t do, which would hurt the team. He has composure that’s surprising for someone that age.”