Ebo Smith always felt like he had something to prove through his high school basketball career at North Hall. With every fourth-quarter comeback, game-winning shot and exciting playoff victory, he put the pressure on himself to be even better.
Even though Smith was part of a talented senior class, it was never in question that he was the centerpiece of the Trojans’ (28-4) run to the Class AAA state semifinal appearance in 2013. As a senior, Smith averaged 19.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and four assists a night.
He even managed to come back as strong as ever after missing a week due to a concussion late in the regular season in a win against Buford.
For his efforts, Smith is The Times Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“I like to call Ebo a quiet warrior,” said Benjie Wood, his coach at North Hall the past four seasons. “He’s mentally tough and the rest of the guys on the team could see that.
“Ebo’s well deserving of every honor he receives.”
Wood could talk at length about all the times that Smith was the deciding factor.
Certainly his return from a head injury again showed Smith’s grit and determination. After missing one game and seven days of practice time, the University of North Georgia signee came off the bench in the first quarter against East Hall to score 25 points, 17 of which came in the second half for a 69-54 region semifinal win against East Hall.
Smith always seemed to be at his best in the second half and when the game was on the line. Most of that was his resolve not to lose.
North Hall’s biggest comeback came with an 88-83 overtime win, and a team-high 19 points from Smith against the Vikings on Jan. 22, after trailing by 16 entering the final period.
“I remember during that game, Ebo looked at the guys after the third quarter and said, ‘We’re not going to lose,’” Wood said.
Smith also steered an overtime win against Class AAAAA state runner-up Gainesville in the Lanierland tournament with a game-high 39 points, and nine of the team’s 12 in overtime.
“That was probably one of my favorite games of the year to finally get to beat Gainesville,” Smith said. “It was the first time in my career that we finally beat them.”
Smith certainly set the tone for the season with a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer against Lanier in the opening week of the season.
“As soon as he released the ball, I knew it was good,” Wood said.
The Trojans’ now former coach says that Smith was so special for a number of reasons. First, he comments that Smith was always completely unselfish and played within the system the program had in place. Second, his shot selection was very refined. Just as importantly, Smith always came up with the big baskets when North Hall needed them the most.
“Ebo has always had such a strong will to win,” Wood added.
Smith’s impact was felt against some of the best in the state. In the second round of the playoffs, the Trojans’ leading scorer had 15 of his 24 points in the second half for a 50-46 win against an imposing Morgan County program loaded with all-state caliber talent.
“I remember watching Morgan County in warmups and it looked like the NBA Slam Dunk contest,” Wood said. “They were more physically impressive than Buford.”
Smith leaves high school knowing he helped drive North Hall’s most successful run in school history, after two trips to the state semifinals. As a freshman, he was the player that came through with a game-tying 3-pointer against Riverwood in the state quarterfinals, according to Wood. However, Smith is quick to share the credit with his teammates Adam Kelly and Griffin Olson that were just every step of the way.
“I just want to thank all my coaches, teammates and fans for these last four years,” Smith said. “It was a fun ride and it went by too fast.”