By Ben Marshall
VANDALIA—Former Van-Far state champion turned professional basketball player, Mike Smith, said in a Chariton Valley Magic City Sports Talk interview that he is a man of faith, and a family man, as he deals with his recent decision to step down from his former—rather full—career as a pro player because of a heart condition.
Smith said in other interviews that this decision is made with a heavy heart, considering he’s been involved in the sport almost all of his life.
In the interview, Smith said that he is thankful he was able to play professionally now that he is nearing the end of his eight-year professional career.
He added that he’s not sure what his future may hold. But he made the decision, keeping his family in mind.
Smith helped take Van-Far to four district titles, three sectional appearances, and as a sophomore, helped lead the Van-Far Indians in 2004 to the state championship, scoring more than 2,600 points during his high school career. That championship year, Van-Far was able to end its season with a 27-game winning streak.
As a junior and a 16 seed, Smith helped his team almost take the NCA tournament. And as a senior, Smith scored 777 points, 414 rebounds, 163 assists, and made 100 steals. He earned all-state honors from 2004 through 2006, and was one of three finalists for Mr. Show Me Basketball in the state of Missouri.
Smith graduated Van-Far continuing on to East Tennessee State from 2006 to 2011 where as a senior playing for the Buccaneers, he was having a really successful year, was voted the Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year in 2011, and was an All-American.
From there, he went to play in the Portsmith Tournament, which is the tournament of the top 64 seniors in the country. Scouts and agents from all over the country attended, and from that opportunity he met and made a decision on an agent.
This was the year of the NBA lockout, so lead to an opportunity for Smith to play in Germany for the Eisbären Bremerhaven from 2011 to 2012, and then he played for the Liège Basket from 2013 to 2014.
He went on to play for the Belfuis Mons-Hainaut in 2014 through 2015. He also played for the Antwerp Giants from 2015 through 2017, and he has played for the Basic-Fit Brussels from 2017 until this year, when he made the decision to retire from the sport.
In 2012, Smith held his first basketball camp at his alma mater, Van-Far, and more than 100 aspiring basketball players competed each day during that first annual “Mike Smith Basketball Camp,” held June 13 through the 16.
Smith held his second basketball camp at Van-Far in 2013. That year the camp schedule ended just in time for Smith to get married to Katie McMahon on July 13.
That year, he also signed to play professional basketball in Liege, Belgium for the season.
He said he was excited to get back to playing after a hand injury earlier in 2012. This came after being drafted by the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League.
In 2014, Smith held his third basketball camp. He also finished his professional season in Belgium, scoring as one of the highest in the league, as well as going on to sign a two-year deal with the Eurocup team Belfius Mons, also in Belgium.
During his fourth basketball camp in 2015, Smith was limited in how much he could participate, because he was recovering from hernia surgery the Monday before camp. Smith’s sister, Alicia, and his brother, Matt, helped with camp, as they did every year, and his friends, Marshall Corbin and Joe Basinger, helped that particular year to see the camp a success.
Smith started his sixth professional season with the Port of Antwerp Giants, helping that team win the Super Cup, which allowed Smith to stay in the U.S. for the birth of his second child, Breklyn Denise Smith, born Aug. 28, 2016. Smith later returned to Belgium to play on Sept. 1.
Smith held his fifth basketball camp in 2016, Van-Far June 30 to July 1. He had just finished his fifth professional season in Europe. He was the oldest player to start on the team with Belguim’s Port of Antwerp Giants that year, and was named Most Valuable Player through the Giants’ Fan Club.
Again, in 2017, Smith held a camp at Van-Far. That year, he had ended his sixth pro season helping the Port of Antwerp Giants advance to the semifinals. Smith was named MVP during the Euromillions playoffs, after he scored 23 points with six assists, three rebounds, and had three steals for a win.
On June 25 and 26 of 2018, Smith held his seventh camp, and sent out a special thank you to everyone who continued to make the camp possible.
Earlier this year in June, it was the eighth camp, where Smith gave of himself along with his friends and family, to make available to the youth of Van-Far his basketball camp.
He notes on his Facebook page, “Big THANK YOU to everyone who continues to allow their kids to attend my camp! I have been blessed to be able to continue having this camp every year for the past eight years. Each summer is a very special time to me and an opportunity to come home and give back to the surrounding areas! My goal is that everyone who attends camp has fun and learns the fundamentals of the game, as well as overall life tools that will allow them to succeed in whatever career path they choose. I love being around those kids and hope that I make a little impact on each and every camper!”
Smith has impacted the lives of hundreds of kids, and many others over the years. One could say a successful season of his life has passed on the court.