Daily News spotlight athletes: Steel Valley's Ajan Smith, West Mifflin's Paige Flore
School: Steel Valley
Claim to fame: Smith has been the offensive catalyst this season, leading the Ironmen (8-2, 3-0) in scoring in five of the past six games. Last week, he scored a game-high 32 points against Hollidaysburg in a 67-62 victory.
“Ajan has been a good leader and has produced offensively and defensively,” coach Shawn McCallister said. “He's our only returning player with varsity experience. We expected him to lead and he has. Last season, he played as a forward, but we moved him to more of a swing player. He gets up and down the court and gets steals because of his length. He's worked on his game to become a complete player, and I think he has.”
How do you handle being the primary offensive weapon for this team?
Sometimes it just comes to me. Most times my teammates set me up. We have other scorers as well and we try to distract the defense. My teammates set me up for a lot of those opportunities.
Do you like playing in rivalry games?
I think we play better in bigger games. I really feed off my team's energy and they feed off me in bigger games where we know we have to step up in order to win.
How far do you think this team can go?
I think we should be able to go pretty far. We have a great team with great size and athleticism. We have a lot of guys here that like to hustle so we should go pretty far.
Would you rather make a game-saving block or steal or hit a game-winning shot?
I would rather make a game-saving steal. It would be a lot more exciting because I would have to work and hustle for that steal.
Who would you most like to play one-on-one?
Coach McCallister because he thinks just because he's older I won't be able to take him.
School: West Mifflin
Claim to fame: Before the season started, Flore made it a goal to be a better leader for the Titans (3-5, 2-0) and she has done just that. She scored 15 points in a 75-66 victory over Section 4-AAA rival Belle Vernon and netted a career-high 24 points in a tough loss to Greensburg Central Catholic in the Hempfield Holiday Tournament. “She has a work rate that is second to none,” coach Rob Yeschenko said. “She is very coachable. She runs the offense well and knows where her teammates will be. She's excellent on defense as well. Her intensity on defense definitely causes problems for opponents.”
How has this team improved from last year?
We've gotten better as a team. We've bonded as a team and work together and pass a lot better.
Did you approach this season any differently?
I (was) hoping to be a leader and more of an offensive threat. I only averaged 9 points a game last year and this year it's up to around 15. Coach approached me about being a leader and I took that into consideration.
What do you find most challenging and enjoyable about basketball?
I enjoy having fun on the court and winning. The most challenging thing is being consistent — averaging the same points and keeping the same overall level of production.
If you could meet any famous or historic figure, who would it be and why?
I would say Olympic volleyball star Misty May-Treanor because she's been very successful throughout her whole life.
If you were rushed out of your house and could only take three things, what would they be and why?
I would take my phone, my family and shoes, because I don't like bare feet.
— Robert Stinner