Do you want to give new Homewood-Flossmoor girls basketball coach Anthony Smith a good laugh? Ask him about the eight transfer students rumored to be practicing in his gym this summer.
‘‘Eight? Ha, ha, ha!’’ Smith said. ‘‘You got more than I heard. I heard it was more like five or six. .??
‘‘There have been a lot of inquiries about that, but I know that H-F does a thorough job of checking all of that out. I know that we have one, for sure, who is in school and just took a placement test.’’
The one is junior-to-be Faith Suggs, who was one of Plainfield East’s leading scorers as a sophomore. Otherwise, Smith said, anybody from another school who was spied by curious onlookers was, to his knowledge, simply taking advantage of an open gym.
Smith said his new program at H-F has been a work in progress. There was no organized summer-league schedule and no traveling as an actual Vikings team. He does, however, have a very clear plan.
‘‘We are going to put our work
ethic up against anybody in the country, not just the state of Illinois,’’ he said. ‘‘We are going to maximize our potential. It’s what I do.’’
His record stands for itself. In his 12 years at Bolingbrook, Smith won four state titles and produced nine consecutive sectional champions.
During that time, his program was a magnet for the best players in Bolingbrook and for others who managed to find their way to the district and be a part of a program that was well-known throughout the country.
Smith has his share of detractors, including some fellow coaches who question his ethics. But he makes no apologies for being someone for whom kids want to play.
‘‘I don’t know what it is, but kids do enjoy playing for me,’’ he said. ‘‘They do enjoy being pushed. I am available 24/7 to those kids, and the kids and their families do appreciate that and work hard for me.
‘‘If a kid wants to play for me, I’m happy to have them, as long as they are doing it correctly. If other coaches don’t like that, I understand, but I’m not going to change being me just because someone doesn’t like it.’’
Smith said he’s more excited about adding current H-F students to a roster that features more than a half-dozen returnees, including Ashley Johnson and Jaiveonna Norris.
‘‘We had a couple of kids who didn’t play basketball last year [6-3 senior center Kandace Tate and 5-9 senior forward/guard Kelsey Chandler] who I’m looking forward to working with,’’ he said. ‘‘When I saw them [at camp], I thought they might be transfers, too. But they told me, ‘No, we’ve been here, we just didn’t play last season.’ I was like, ‘Holy cow. Anybody else in the hallways?’ I’ll have to look in the hallways and see if there are more of ’em. Those two are going to help us out.’’
Meanwhile, past and present blended together in June, when Morgan Tuck and Nia Moore — two of Smith’s former stars from Bolingbrook — came to H-F and worked out with the kids who were there.
Smith certainly won’t be a forgotten coach in Bolingbrook history.
‘‘It was home,’’ Smith said. ‘‘I went to high school there, grew up there. I knew everyone there. The mayor there [Roger Claar], he was a girls basketball fan, and he loved it and supported it.
‘‘We turned Bolingbrook into a girls basketball town. We competed with the football program. Everybody knew that was the place to be at. We had it going there.’’