Llewellyn Smalley is a lot of things. Ordinary, however, is not one of them. At the start of the second half of tonight’s Manoa Summer League, I must admit that I was pretty distraught. It seemed to be yet another night of fairly uneventful play, which would mean that I would once again be required to pull a half baked idea out of my ass and run with it as though it meant something. The Legend of Smalley, however, spared me mercifully from this fate.
It started with a tweet sent out by Brian McInnis. Llewellyn Smalley was at the game, but would not be suiting up. Why? Because there was a “concern he’d convey an unfair advantage for a team.” Wait. What the what??? You’re joking right?
Brian, much to my dismay, was not. I arrived and confirmed for myself that yes, Smalley was there and, though his GrantCo team was getting blown out on the floor against Clark Hatch, he had on just a plain black t-shirt and shorts and was chatting off to the side behind the backboard. And so the legend begins.
After gathering some courage (I mean c’mon, its SMALLEY!), I made my way over there to ask him for myself. And, he confirmed that yes, he was not going to be playing anymore. Why? Because apparently the coaches thought that he was messing with the standings. See, Smalley is only here for two weeks and only playing to keep fit and active. So, when he arrived, I guess people thought it would be cute to give the 40 year old to the last place team in the league. How much harm could one guy do? Then he won his first game. Uh oh. Still figuring it to be…manageable, they gave him to the new last place team. Then he won his second game. Crap. What the hell Smalley, you’re messing with the standings!!
You see, the main problem that coaches had here was that not only were Smalley’s teams winning, they were giving higher ranked teams losses. So now, no coach was willing to let another coach have him. Both because they didn’t want other teams to win, and because they didn’t want their own to lose. And so finally, Smalley had had enough. He was done.
“It just wasn’t worth it”, he told me afterwards. ”I’m just here to spend time with my son and to hoop a little. When I saw that it was causing all this drama, I just told them, nah that’s cool I’m just not gonna play at all then.” And he so didn’t. Instead, he was content to just stand off to the side to watch his buddy Geremy compete. Which allowed for an interaction that went something like this:
Me: “Wait so you got the single game scoring record for the summer league right?”
LS: “Yup, I do. What is it? (*Turning to friend*) Is it 60? Yeah I think it’s like 60…65 points.”
LS Friend: “Whoa whoa, hold up though, that’s not even the REAL record.”
LS: “What you talking about man?”
LS Friend: “Did you know that this guy dropped 80 once? In a real game? 80!! And, AND he didn’t play the whole game. We were 5 minutes late!”
LS + LS Friend: “Haha yeah absolutely. I had like 80. Alvin (LS Friend), he had 58, and Geremy (Robinson) had like 60. Really, true story, these guys are my witnesses.”
Me: “Wait. Wait that means you guys scored like 200 points.”
LS Friend: “Yeah man. Eventually they stopped adding to the scoreboard. And, AND, there was only 5 of us there.”
Me: “So you played the whole game?”
LS Friend: “Yup, the whole game.”
LS: “Yeah, man I made so many threes that game. I musta made like 24…26 threes.”
LS Friend: “Yeah yeah, dude made 26 threes in ONE GAME!!!.”
There was a lot more to it than that, but the gist of the facts are there. Before enrolling at HPU, Smalley was in the military and came to Hawaii fresh from Shreveport, Lousiana. In case you didn’t already know, Smalley didn’t play high school basketball. He, like many of his friends from Lousiana played football (lining up at WR, RB and Safety.) After quitting due to a steady stream of injuries (“I was small, man), he joined the military and moved out here, where he had a growth spurt and took up basketball. He was discovered by Tony Selitto, who plucked him from military service (“Man, I still don’t even know how he got me outta there”) and put him in a position to earn a degree playing basketball for him. He told me, unequivocally, that Coach Selitto changed his life (“I don’t know where I woulda been if he wasn’t there for me, helping me get my degree.”)
At this point, I’m beyond captivated. I mean really, he could have told me he actually invented basketball and I would have believed him. Instead his friend continued on. ”Did you know he played with KD? John Wall? Carmelo? All those guys coming from the DC area. Ty Lawson? Dude is short, but man he’s a bowling ball. And so quick man. Fastest guy I ever saw.”
Then Smalley jumped back in. ”DC man, there’s basketball everywhere. I mean like, you got Georgetown, you got Maryland, you got Virginia, you got VCU, you got the Wizards. All these schools with basketball players. It’s like everywhere you go, theres a gym and it’s full, people just playing ball.”
“Hawaii though, Hawaii is just where it’s at for me. It’s so beautiful and its given me so much. That’s why I come back. I mean my son’s here, my brother, he’s here (pointing to his friend Alvin), my cousin Tony (not Selitto), he’s here. So I try to get out here as often as I can.”
Smalley is currently working as a Federal Probation Officer in D.C. Alvin Stephenson, Smalley’s “brother” who he met while playing basketball at HPU, is the Head Coach at Damien. Rounding out their threesome is Geremy Robinson, who just about everyone knows from his time at UH. I didn’t get to talk to him so I’m not sure what he’s up to right now. Still, it’s clear that the guys are closer than family. They even talked wistfully about their kids growing up and all playing basketball together on the same college team (Georgetown). Real love.
If you get a chance to talk to Smalley before he leaves on Monday, I highly encourage you to do so. Not only is he super engaging, he’ll probably you tell you a story or three. And, if he does, please share it with me.
For a recap of the things actually happening on the court, as always our friends at Warrior Insider have recapped it excellently. That picture of Valdes is pretty sick right? Go show Brandon Flores Photography some love too. The basketball community here is pretty small, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t super talented.