By JOSEPH STASZEWSKI
Bria Smith’s name was on the only list that mattered.
When the McDonald’s All-American game released its group of nominees for its girls’ basketball contest late last year, the Christ the King star guard’s name was conspicuously absent from the New York section. It left her puzzled and distressed.
“I had a panic attack,” Smith said after a laugh. “I was kind of like, ‘Oh, my God, I didn’t even make that.’ [Assistant Coach] Jill [Cook] called people and found out I actually was on the list and they just made a typo.”
There was no such problem when the game’s rosters were announced last Thursday. The Virginia-bound Smith was on as a member of the East team that will compete against the stars of the West at the United Center in Chicago March 30. She was the only New York City player, boy or girl, selected.
“I was excited and I just know that it’s a huge, huge honor to be in that game,” the 5-foot-10 Smith said. “It means that people consider you one of the elite players of your class.”
She also joins a talented group of Christ the King All-American alumni that includes Sue Bird and Chamique Holdsclaw. Shay Doran, Carrem Gay, Tina Charles and Lorin Dixon all got a chance to play in the McDonald’s game. Last year, Ariel Edwards made the WBCA All-American game.
“There are great players who came from here that played in those games,” Smith said. “Just to put myself inside the same list, I’m just honored.”
She played on the Christ the King varsity team as a freshman and helped them win a state Federation Class A title. During her junior season, the Royals completed a historic feet when they became the first school to win both boys’ and girls’ Federation Class AA crowns. Smith, ranked the No. 8 recruit in the county by HoopGurlz, spent the summer traveling overseas and winning a gold medal with the U.S. U17 national team at the FIBA World Championships.
“It’s a very rewarding thing when you see a player grow, mature both as a player and as a person over the four years,” CK Coach Bob Mackey said. “It’s just an absolute pleasure to watch, to watch her grow up and handle things and handle some adversity.”
This season, Smith has Christ the King ranked No. 25 in the country by USA Today and No. 1 in the city by the New York Post. The Royals are 14-6 and in a first place tie in CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I with Nazareth, ranked No. 16 in the nation.
Smith scored a season-high 31 points to lead CK to a 74-57 win against the Lady Kingsmen Feb. 5. She recorded her first career-triple double with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists against Bishop Loughlin and averaged 25 points over four games at the Nike Tournament of Champions earlier this year.
“I think it’s been her most consistent year,” Mackey said. “I think she has played hard every possession. She has played every quarter. Bria doesn’t take plays off.”
It’s one of the many reasons Smith is getting to fulfill a childhood dream. She remembered sitting in front of her television as an eighth-grader and watching the McDonald’s All-American game. She talked about how much fun it looked like the players were having. After talking last year with St. Michael Academy guard Jen O’Neill about the game, Smith is looking forward to the experience, including visiting the Ronald McDonald House for children with serious medical conditions.
“It just humbles everybody that goes there,” she said.
Smith, however, isn’t shy about how she would like to cap her stellar high school career after earning one of the most prestigious individual honors. She would love to help her team bring home another Federation Class AA title to Middle Village.
“It would be great,” Smith said. “That would just sum up a great year.”