Smith knows pain of loss,
By Audrey Warren
Daily Cougar Staff
Dominic Smith's cousin was like a sister
to him. But when his family mourned her death in black, he donned a basketball
jersey instead. It was one of the hardest times of his life.
By Lorrie Novosad/The Daily
Senior guard Dominic Smith
is a team leader on and off the court. He leads the Cougars in both points
In her memory, the senior bears a tattoo:
prayer hands with a message for God to watch over her. It can be seen from
the stands now as the Cougar guard helps lead
the basketball team through its best season
He's always loved basketball, life and
his family. And though he's only 5-10, Smith has shown the enormous heart
of a person who's struggled immensely and a player
who was long overlooked.
It was only a few years ago that Smith
was a member of the obscure Paris Junior College basketball team getting
passed over by coaches questioning his size.
But then the University of Pittsburgh came
along. And Smith was almost a Panther until UH men's basketball head coach
Ray McCallum showed up.
Smith wanted to play for a coach who understood
players and had been in their shoes and he found that in McCallum — a Ball
State basketball legend who had also
made his way through seven-footers as
a 5-10 guard.
Teammates kid the starter about his close
ties with his coach. "The guys sometimes say, 'Go talk to your dad,' they
call him my dad," Smith said. "And he's been like an
extra dad to me."
As his first recruit, McCallum said he
saw a lot in Smith. "This kid was taking it to the rim on big guys," McCallum
said. "He has an outstanding energy and quickness.
He's just a fearless player."
Now, just two years later, the two own
a 7-5 Conference USA record and a 14-11 season record.
Smith has amassed impressive stats individually
as well, including a career-high 38 points against Southern Mississippi
in January. He led C-USA in steals per game
last season and leads the team in points
and steals this season.
He's always been a guy who can hit the
crucial shot, like the three-pointer against Memphis on Saturday with 46.3
seconds remaining that helped the Coogs to their
76-73 win. Or when he went 12-for-12 from
the free-throw line for a Charlotte win last season with only 17 seconds
on the clock.
He only expects the team to improve, but
says hewishes to play at home in front of a "jam-packed crowd" before he
The Virginia-born Smith is the baby of
the family, with four brothers and two sisters. Living in the Ashland area,
his family had little money when he was young. And in
the four years he's been in Texas — first
at Paris, then Houston — Smith said his mom has still not been able to
visit him. He'll become the first in his family to graduate.
When his cousin died, it was because she
did not receive the blood transfusion she needed. Without the money to
fly to the funeral and a looming basketball game the
next day, Smith missed the ceremony. It's
not the only loss he's experienced.
His other tattoos reflect past memories
also, including a dedication to his grandmother who died and the words
"life goes on."
"I had a cousin who died and always used
to say, 'Whatever happens, life goes on,'" Smith said. It's a motto he's
lived by with a struggle through acid reflux disease,
which can wear away the lining of the
Smith competed last season before getting
throat surgery to correct the ailment over the summer. He said another
surgery may be needed when this season ends.
As a movie lover who touts a collection
of hundreds, maybe Smith is somewhat like Eddie Murphy in Coming to America,
one of his favorite comedies. He's come into a
place with intentions in mind, it's tough
and trying at times, but in the end he'll have learned more about himself
as he achieves his goals.
In May he plans to graduate with a business
degree and pursue a career in the NBA. "I know I'm going to have to work
hard. It's not going to be easy," he said.
And when he gets to the NBA, Smith said
he'd love the opportunity to brag on his Cougars, of which he'll always
"I gave up a lot for basketball. God willing,
I know it'll pay off."
Smith will help lead UH against Tulane
at 7:30 tonight at Hofheinz.