Kenwood big man Jaden Smith emerges in city semifinal win

The 6-11 junior had eight rebounds, three blocks and shot 7-for-7 on Thursday.

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Kenwood’s Jaden Smith (1) defends as Perspectives-Leadership’s Gianni Cobb (1) goes to the net.

Kenwood’s Jaden Smith (1) defends as Perspectives-Leadership’s Gianni Cobb (1) goes to the net.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Kenwood coach Mike Irvin is the showman, senior Dai Dai Ames is the star and Calvin Robins Jr. is the athletic intellectual.

All three took on their usual roles in the Broncos’ lively postgame press conference after beating Perspectives-Leadership 56-42 in the Public League semifinals on Thursday at Credit Union One Arena at UIC.

Junior big man Jaden Smith, a newcomer to the spotlight, hasn’t quite found his role in Kenwood’s rambunctious postgame. He kept his head down and politely said that he didn’t know if 14 points was his career high. Ames was sure it wasn’t, that Smith had scored 20 or more somewhere along the way this season.

Smith’s emergence on the court could spell trouble for Simeon in the city title game on Saturday and for all of Class 4A in the IHSA state playoffs. The 6-11 junior had eight rebounds, three blocks and shot 7-for-7 on Thursday.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of it in practice,” Irvin said. “He’s been working hard. He’s one of the top players in the country at his age. He’s coming.”

“I’ve just been focusing on what I need to do on the court,” Smith said.

Ames scored 13 for the Broncos (23-5) and Tyler Smith added 11.

Perspectives-Leadership was a heavy underdog and managed to hang with Kenwood for a half, trailing just 25-24 after two quarters.

“They took over the game in the second half with the size and scoring around the basket,” Warriors coach Mike Smith said. “And then we really couldn’t make the shots that we normally make.”

Junior Gianni Cobb led Perspectives-Leadership (19-11) with 16 points and Jakeem Cole added 12 points.

It was the first year in the Red for the Warriors, so advancing to the semifinals is an impressive accomplishment.

“I don’t want these guys to hang their heads,” Smith said. “I want them to be celebrated and learn from what happened today.”

Perspectives-Leadership is a Class 2A team and earned the top-seed in the Julian Sectional. The Warriors are a legitimate state title contender.

Kenwood moves on to play Simeon in the city championship game on Saturday at 4 p.m. at UIC. The Broncos have never won the city title.

“I told everybody Kenwood is on the rise,” Irvin said. “We are one of the best programs in the country and we have something to prove.”

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