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Gene Smith



Born and grew up in Thomas, SD. 1947 Watertown HS grad. 1952 Huron College grad. Perhaps the greatest basketball player in the history of Huron College, Smith was one of the first South Dakotans ever drafted by an NBA team, taken by the NBA champion Minneapolis Lakers in 1952. Despite the complete loss of two fingers and the tip of another from his left hand in a boyhood accident, Smith became an all-stater in Class B at Thomas and Class A at Watertown. In 1946 he led Thomas to its only state tourney appearance. At Huron College, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound forward scored 1,184 points, led the Scalpers to four straight SDIC titles and set eight SDIC records. His senior season he averaged 27.2 points a game, second best in the NAIA, shot 53.6 percent from the field (No. 5 in NAIA) and led Huron to its first NAIA national tourney. An Associated Press story said "Smith has the broadest shoulders and longest arms you've ever seen. His uncanny eye, his dexterity at faking opponents into fouling him, his ability to outjump many taller boys and his wide variety of shots made 'Number 24' almost impossible to stop. His coach, Ralph Lundeen, said, 'We had one play that always seemed to work - pass it to Smitty.'" Smith was drafted by the Lakers and played the entire exhibition schedule before being cut. He was a starter in the very first game ever played in the Huron Arena, an exhibition game between the Lakers and Syracuse Nats that attracted the largest crowd (5,362) ever to see a basketball game in South Dakota. He coached two years at Oldham and three at Spearfish before moving to Visalia, Calif., in 1958. Smith's officiating career is just as impressive as his playing career. He began officiating while a junior at Huron College. He officiated football and basketball in South Dakota. In California, he reffed football and basketball for 25 years and umpired baseball for 20 years. He was inducted into the Kings-Tulare Counties Sports Officials Association Hall of Fame in 1994. In 1978, Smith became the second person ever inducted into Huron College's Athletic Hall of Fame. At Redwood High in Visalia, he coached briefly - football (two years), basketball (three years) and cross country (three years) - before concentrating on officiating. His 1963 cross country team won the school's first Valley title, somewhat like a state title in South Dakota.










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