More experienced, confident Smallwood making impact for Rams
STRASBURG — One year has made quite a difference for Strasburg’s Maddie Smallwood.
The sophomore point guard for the girls basketball team started last year as a freshman and said the year was a big learning experience for her.
“It was really nerve-wracking being on varsity as a freshman, and having all that pressure on you,” Smallwood said. “As a point guard they really rely on you. I learned how to control my nerves more. How to handle the pressure. I’ve become a lot more confident this year in bringing the ball up the court. Last year, I was really nervous.”
Smallwood’s play has made a huge difference for the Rams this season. She is averaging an area-best 6.3 assists per game.
Strasburg girls basketball coach Darin Jenkins said that the 5-foot-6 Smallwood has also grown a few inches and he thinks that has also helped her.
Jenkins said Smallwood has worked hard on her game to get better.
“The thing with Maddie is she wants to get better, and she’ll work to get better,” Jenkins said. “You’d like to have a whole team full of Maddie’s. But she’s worked at it. She has made big strides. She’s gotten taller. She’s gotten stronger.”
Smallwood said she played Amateur Athletic Union basketball for the Royal Fury, based out of Front Royal, last summer.
Smallwood said the team was mostly made up of Skyline players and she said it was a great experience for her.
“It’s really nice knowing girls from other schools and just having so many friends,” Smallwood said. “It was a lot of fun. But it’s really weird when you have to play against them (in high school) and guard them.”
Smallwood is averaging 4.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game.
Smallwood said she loves being the point guard, and being able to distribute the ball to her teammates.
“I just like helping my teammates a lot and just getting them the ball” Smallwood said. “And just knowing that if they score, then we have a better chance of winning.”
Smallwood has plenty of strong options to pass the ball to. The Rams have the top-scoring duo in the area.
Strasburg’s 6-foot-4 Christyan Reid leads the area in scoring, averaging 15.9 points per game. Strasburg’s 6-foot-2 Jaden Alsberry is averaging 12.1 points per contest.
Smallwood said that she loves knowing she can depend on the players around her.
“It’s just really reassuring knowing that they’re going to be there,” Smallwood said. “So if you can get them the ball they’re going to catch it, and they’re going to score points for you.”
Jenkins said one of Smallwood’s biggest strengths is her knowledge of the game.
“The biggest thing with her is she knows the game,” Jenkins said. “And with the point guard that’s one of the big things. I think she knows she’s not always going to be the leading scorer. She’s not going to always get all the recognition. But she takes care of the basketball. She gets the ball in the right people’s hands, and she gets us set up.”
The point guard is typically one of the leaders of the team, and Smallwood said she also enjoys that role.
“It’s nice to have younger girls who look up to you,” Smallwood said. “I’ve been told that some of the younger girls look up to me as a role model and they watch how I play. It’s really nice that you have that, that you can be a leader for the team.”
The Rams have a young squad with six sophomores on the team, including starters Smallwood, Reid and Alsberry.
Jenkins said the sophomore class is a big part of the team and the future of the program.
“They all seem to get along so well on and off the court,” Jenkins said. “And I think that’s half the battle. If you can stay together when things are going bad, and they do that well, then in the long run it’s going to pay off for us. We’re not where we want to be yet. But I think we’re taking steps in the right direction, and that’s an important group for us.”
The Rams are 13-9 this season after winning only seven games last season.
Strasburg hosts Rappahannock County in the Bull Run District tournament quarterfinals at 7 p.m., tonight.
Jenkins said even though Smallwood has improved from her freshman season to this year, her game can get even better in the future.
“My goal with her is let’s get her stronger, let’s get her quicker,” Jenkins said. “And I think once she gets that, you’ll see even a better player than what you’re seeing now.”