After a great freshman year, then a red-hot start to her sophomore campaign cut short by injury and a junior basketball season limited by COVID, Friends’ Central senior forward and captain Madison Smith is eagerly looking to make her mark this winter in the 2021-22 basketball season.
“I knew my senior year would have to be a big one,” said Smith. “Missing 11 games in my sophomore year and only having five games my junior year due to the pandemic, once I got our schedule for this season, I knew this would have to be a big year.”
Despite the MCL tear she suffered as a sophomore, and the COVID pandemic last year, Smith is close to scoring 1,000 career points for Friends’ Central and was selected first team All-Main Line each of the last three years.
“No one, and I do mean no one, will ever outwork Madison,” exclaimed Friends’ Central girls’ basketball head coach Phil Annas. “Madison’s engine runs at a much higher level than most, and she is a coach’s delight with her positive attitude and her willingness to allow the coaches to coach her. She never takes a play or possession off and absolutely leaves everything she has on the court.”
The 5-foot-8 Smith first started playing basketball in second grade for St. Francis DeSales in Philadelphia. Her mother, Sharena, played for St. Maria Goretti from 1994-1998, then played for Penn State Delco Brandywine, where her team won its UCAA division conference with a 25-1 record.
“When I was really little I never really liked basketball, but later on my father (Larry Smith) got me started playing,” said Smith. “My mother took over from there – she analyzes everything, is always there to tell me what I did wrong, and gets mad at me when I make a mistake. My dad is the technique side of things, looking more deeply into the game while mom is more of the physical aspects of the game.”
Smith attended Friends’ Central starting in 9th grade.
“It was a choice for me between Penn Charter, where all my friends were going, and Friends’ Central, where I really liked the environment – people were open and friendly, it was a really down-home feeling,” said Smith. “I saw Friends’ Central as a new challenge, where I could discover who I was in a new environment.”
Smith had a great freshman basketball season at Friends’ Central, averaging 14.8 points per game and 11.9 rebounds per contest as the Phoenix posted a 15-10 record.
She also was Main Line Girls Athlete of the Week midway through that season, and during that interview was asked what person she admired most.
“My mother and father,” she responded. “No matter what is brought upon my mom’s path she always finds a way to push past or find a way through it. She never runs away from her problems but faces them head on. She’s everything that I want to be: a strong black woman. Not just a strong black woman but a superhero – my superhero and in my eyes the best superhero. My Dad is my hype man and the person who gets me angry. I admire him in too many ways to count, particularly his intelligence and his personality – especially his personality. He knows how to brighten up dark times with his jokes which I love!”
Smith got off to a great start in her sophomore basketball season, and was the Phoenix’s Most Valuable Player, scoring 16.5 points per game, pulling down 11.5 rebounds per contest and averaging 3.0 steals per game as the Phoenix went 16-11. Unfortunately, she suffered a knee injury and missed the team’s last 11 games.
“I was having an amazing season, was on my way to scoring my 1,000 career point, and then suffered that injury, which was a check on my ego – it humbled me,” said Smith.
The biggest challenge in her rehab (which she performed at school) was the mental part, she said.
“It was about six months before I was comfortable with running on that knee,” said Smith “The mental part was hard, trusting my leg [fully].”
Despite the fact that COVID limited Smith’s junior basketball season last year, she was first team All-Main Line for the third consecutive year, scoring 14.6 points per game, pulling down eight rebounds per contest, and coming up with two steals a game.
“The COVID also prevented me from playing AAU ball [in 2020] as well as limiting our basketball schedule at Friends’ Central,” said Smith. “It made me angry, but that fueled my determination to use the time to study plays on my off-time and to be mentally prepared for my senior season.”
Last summer, Smith played AAU basketball for the Philadelphia Belles.
“I also had a trainer who helped with lay-ups and combo moves,” said Smith. “I did some conditioning drills and did work on my own to help get prepared for senior year.”
“Madison is a very conscientious young person who handles adversity and success equally well,” said Annas. “She is a very self-confident and self-assured individual who helps those around her feel more confident and secure in their abilities. She treats people with respect and compassion, and always takes pride in the success of the group over individual or personal achievements.”
Smith said. “My coaches have been a big influence for me especially on an emotional level and, even on a physical level. They are like my base. At Friends’ Central, this team is the most family-oriented, especially with all the coaches supporting me and helping me mentally grow and physically grow as a player.”
Smith sees her role as a senior captain what she calls a “family elder.”
“We built a family environment here, and I feel it’s my role to eventually bring out the younger players to become [future] elders, to continue the family environment that we’ve build here,” said Smith.
This winter, Smith not only wants to reach the 1,000th point milestone, but also grab her 1,000th career rebound. Most importantly, she’d like to help the Phoenix win a Friends’ Schools League title.
“Winning a title would be something to leave behind for the school,” said Smith.
- Eddie Levin contributed to this article.