We have reached the top 5 in our countdown of Outside the Huddle’s Top 50 girls basketball players. This is No. 2 in our annual preseason crowning of the top 5 players in northeast Indiana that we call the ‘First Five;’ our highest individual preseason honor.
The ‘First Five’ was started in 2018, following in the 35-plus year tradition of naming the top five area basketball players, started by a now defunct prep sports department in Fort Wayne. It is our honor to pick up and carry on that tradition with the ‘First Five,’ including our fourth group of honorees coming this season at the top of our Top 50 countdown.
No. 2 Olivia Smith, South Side
There is zero question who has been the most illuminating Archer during the past three seasons as Smith took to the varsity level as a natural fit as a freshman and has flourished ever since. She has helped keep South Side a contender in the SAC and their Sectional even through some lean years, by South Side standards, with other team personnel. The first thing that everyone should know, at least, about Smith is that she is a knockdown shooter and it is what got her the most attention as she started her high school career. She is still very dangerous in that aspect where she knocked down five triples against South Bend Washington and four against Jay County last season. Smith missed some games last season and that may have slowed her total output but it doesn’t mean her numbers suffered when she was in the lineup, scoring double digits in 13 of her 14 games, hitting the 20 point mark or higher six times including 36 against Franklin Central when she went an astonishing 19-of-22 from the free throw line. Smith ended the season averaging 20.1 points per game. She heads into her senior season with 872 career points.
Now that the scoring is out of the way, let’s talk about how Smith has morphed over her three varsity seasons into one of the very best well rounded players we have seen in years in Northeast Indiana. Her shooting, and now her driving to the rim, gets the attention but she fights for every inch. Last season, she averaged 4.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.6 steals per contest. The rebounding gets an impressive nod as the point guard had seven games with five or more. The assists? That has risen too as Smith’s ability to get to the rim improving means she has more kick out and dump off opportunities; she had a season high 7 assists against Snider while still scoring 19 points. Smith’s defense is critically underrated because of the chaos she creates. Her quick hands make you never want to put the ball on the floor when she is tightly guarding you.
PREVIOUSLY IN THE COUNTDOWN
No. 4 Renna Schwieterman, Jay County
No. 5 Saniya Jackson, Northrop
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