Phoenix Suns point guard Smith stands strong in faithcomment (0)
March 13, 2014
When a fractured left foot benched Ishmael (Ish) Smith at the beginning of his junior season at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., frustration was quickly replaced with peace of mind.
“I never got down because I knew it was all God’s plan. You go through different things in your life; obstacles to test your faith,” Smith said. “Any time that has happened, I stand strong in my faith and things have turned out great. I probably had my best year since I had been there.”
His junior year, he dished his 400th assist and provided a springboard to a senior season where he was second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference. He finished as the only player in school history to score a career — 1,114 points and have 612 assists. He also was the first player to grab 400 career rebounds in addition to the points and assists total. He scored four game-winning shots.
“God has His way of doing things,” said Smith, a point guard for the Phoenix Suns who was first signed by Houston in 2010 as an undrafted free agent.
“There is not a day that I don’t wake up thanking God for the opportunity He has given me to be in this position, for my family and the people around me,” Smith said. “I thank Him for giving me the ability. It is His anointing on me.”
Smith has used quickness, attention to detail, athleticism and defense to become a solid player. “He is able to defend a lot of quick guards — he is so smart — you can tell his IQ is at another level,” said Phoenix guard Gerald Green. “He is going to give 100 percent effort every time in practice or games.”
Smith, 6 feet and 175 pounds, has elevated his game through self-confidence, eagerness to learn and taking to heart wisdom from former Memphis teammate Zach Randolph.
Randolph told him to work to improve daily. “Let’s be honest. All of us chop at each other,” Smith said. “If I play well here (Phoenix) then when my contract is up, Memphis might want to sign me.”
Phoenix, where Smith landed in 2013, is the sixth team Smith has played for. Following Houston and Memphis, he has played for Golden State, Orlando and Milwaukee.
Pointing out that his name is biblical, Smith, 25, became a Christian when he was young. “At 4 or 5 I started realizing Jesus is real,” he said. His parents Larry and Gwen Smith, whom he calls “very spiritual people,” became role models who took him to church. “I was born into church.” Growing up in Charlotte, N.C., Smith attended Victory Christian Center.
Reading the Bible daily is a way Smith stays well versed. “I have improved myself as a Christian man based upon a lot of reading, whether it is the Bible or daily devotions my father and mother have me read. My biggest thing is my faith; I am maturing.”
Smith graduated from Wake Forest with a major in religion. “It gave me a respect about every religion based upon whatever they believed in,” he said. “If anybody wants to know Him, I am going to give them as much as I can based upon what I know. Jesus is unbelievable — I love Him to death. Obviously there will be a day when I am able to see Him.”
Prayer also impacts his life. He prays during the national anthem and a game.
“Temptations are strong. You have to look at the big picture. First of all, I am a Christian and second, I want to be great at what I do. If I am a basketball player, the profession I have chosen and God has blessed me with, I need to use that talent to the fullest ability.”
Through his personality, actions, the way he carries himself and respect for teammates, Smith conveys his Christianity. “He is a humble guy. He is always staying positive, especially with me,” Green said. If Green is having a bad game or day, Smith is one of the first to encourage him.
Smith has an all-star smile. “I am constantly smiling, constantly having fun although I am competing. I wake up with a smile knowing what God has done for me.” Smith is smiling about his increased minutes per game that now total 21. He has averaged 3.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
“I am pretty sure he is going to have a long career. He is a true professional,” Green said. “He deserves to be in this league.”