HAGERSTOWN — Kevin Smoot started the Washington County Middle School Basketball League 10 years ago at Broadfording Christian Academy based on one central principle: Discipline.
“He’s a disciplined individual, and in sports you have to be,” said Kevin’s wife, Christy Smoot. “When he had kids he realized that they had nothing to do and he wanted to give them an outlet where they could learn and grow together.”
With Kevin in mind, the coaches and directors of the Washington County Middle School Basketball League created the Kevin Smoot Scholarship Award, given to a high school senior who played at least two years in the league and will be attending college in the fall.
Prospective candidates had to have at least a 3.3 grade-point average and submit an essay on how the game of basketball helped them in their academics.
This year’s recipient is Clear Spring forward Ben Cornwell, who was selected by a panel of five coaches and directors in the league.
Cornwell has a 4.4 GPA and is considering either the Naval Academy or the University of Maryland next year, but his successes in high school have not blinded him to his roots in the WCMSBL.
“Competing in sports from a young age, you learn to trust yourself. Through that trust, you can do anything you set your mind to,” said Cornwell, who played in the middle school league all three of his years. “I didn’t play much in middle school, but I learned the game and from there I captained Clear Spring the second half of the season.”
Cornwell admits that basketball has helped him stay focused in the classroom, but the main concept he took from the WCMSBL is teamwork.
“What I learned from the league is just trusting your teammates. It was a learning process, but it was a great experience,” Cornwell said. “It was great growing with the same players over the years and seeing those same faces as teammates and opponents now. Building those relationships is huge.”
Smoot is no longer involved with the WCMSBL, but his influence on Washington County’s youth is exemplified in Cornwell and others who hone their talents in the league.
“There’s only a few kids that can get by on God-given talent,” said Christy Smoot. “But when you give these kids positive direction, the sky’s the limit for them.”
Saturday’s eighth-grade championship game saw top-seeded Western Heights escape with a 48-47 victory over second-seeded Boonsboro.