It’s grand to be Ireland

 

Point guard Ireland Smith has her sights set on becoming Washington’s all-time leading scorer. MELISSA MITMAN / TIMES PHOTO

Ireland Smith never cared so much about scoring.

Smith is the senior franchise player on the George Washington High School girls basketball team and has been the starting point guard on the team since she arrived as a freshman.

She’s always been the player who was responsible for getting other players involved and running the Eagles offense. It’s worked well, too, as Washington has been one of the top teams in the Public League for the past three seasons.

But this year, while still maintaining her role as the distributor, Smith did think about scoring a little. She had a goal, and last week, she accomplished it.

“I’ve really wanted to score 1,000 points, it’s been a goal of mine since I was in middle school,” said Smith, who lives in Parkwood. “I remember when I was in middle school, I looked up to players who scored 1,000 points, so I set that as a goal for myself. It’s a huge honor in basketball, it means so much.”

And now Smith is in that exclusive club.

Smith scored her 1,000 point during the Eagles’ 41-16 win over Parkway Center City. She followed that up with a 34-point effort in Washington’s 43-37 win over South Philadelphia.

The milestone was well worth the wait, but like any good leader, Smith didn’t make the moment about herself.

“I did this because during my time here, I’ve had great help from our coaches, they’ve really helped me so much,” Smith said. “And my teammates, too. They get me the ball and give me a chance to score. Every year I’ve had great teammates, and they’re helping me a lot this year, too.

“When I scored it, I (was pretty emotional) because it meant a lot to me. We played right after the boys game, and the gym was pretty packed. Everyone was there cheering. A lot left after I got it, but I’m happy the girls team is getting a lot of recognition because a lot of girls on this team deserve it.”

In previous seasons, Smith teamed with Bella Vazquez, who last year became the first girls player in school history to score 1,000 points.

When Smith joined her as the only Eagle to achieve the feat, Vazquez was following along from Kansas, where she attends college.

“She said welcome to the club,” Smith said. “She texted me right after the game. We stay in touch.

Smith’s achievements in hoops are more impressive because she’s not a specialist.

In the spring, Smith is the shortstop and three-hole hitter for the Eagles softball team. And as great as she is in basketball, she might be even better in soccer, where the midfielder scored a school-record 83 career goals.

That gives Smith a tough choice to make as she starts to figure out where she’s going to college. The spring will likely be the last time she plays softball, but she has yet to make a decision on what she wants to play in college.

Or actually she has, but still has to clear it with her new school.

“If I could do anything, I would want to play both sports, I really think I can do it,” Smith said. “If a school would let me, I would love to do it. I love both sports so much. I love softball, too, but my main sports are soccer and basketball.”

No matter what she plays, she hopes to be involved in both for a long time to come.

She plans on majoring in physical education with hopes of helping the next generation of athletes.

“I would really like to be a gym teacher and help kids the way I’ve had help,” Smith said. “I’ve had great coaches and teachers. I would like to help people and I love being around sports.

Ireland Smith has been the starting point guard for four years. This year she also leads the team in scoring. MELISSA MITMAN / TIMES PHOTO

“I would do whatever a school wanted. I have talked to some coaches, but I’m not sure where I’m going yet. I know I want to play sports.”

Wherever she goes, she’ll have a lot of supporters.

Athletics have been a big part of her life, and her family’s life. Her dad coached her when she was growing up. Her mom is her biggest fan. Her sister Erin, a freshman at Washington, was the scorekeeper. She also says her boyfriend Kenneth Klos, who is at training with the Marines, is a huge supporter.

“My family are my biggest supporters,” Smith said. “And my coaches, too. Coach Reid and and Coach Marchio helped me reach the goal. And my teammates. We are really young this year, but they’re good and they try so hard.”

Smith still has a chance to break Vazquez’s school record of 1,057 points. And she wants to help her teammates get better along the way.

“The young girls on this team are so good,” Smith said. “I’m really proud of what we’re doing. I think we’re getting better. This has been a great year and we still have a lot to do.”