Junious Smith III: Thank you for letting me be a storyteller
I’ll never take for granted how good I have it in this community.
Lately, Bryan Hanks and I have been trying to put elements together for the 47th annual John Wall Holiday Invitational, one of the biggest Christmas tournaments in the nation. The memories have been numerous, but the first time I went in 2014 blew me away in terms of talent and intensity. Five high school players in the tournament — Brandon Ingram, Harry Giles, Jamal Murray, Thon Maker and Dennis Smith Jr. — were first-round selections in the NBA and it was great having the opportunity to chop it up with them throughout.
As great as the tournament is, I don’t get to forge relationships like I have here.
This is my fourth year covering sports locally, meaning I’ve worked with current seniors since they were freshmen. Looking at the new Lovick’s Café Athletes of the Week, I remember when Greene Central’s Imajae Dodd was coming off the bench as a change-of-pace big man getting his reps before turning into a Rams cornerstone and UNC-Wilmington commit. On the other side, I covered North Lenoir’s Ashanti Lynch during her two years in the Lenoir County Middle School Classic when she led Contentnea-Savannah to victories and had watched her sisters, Jamenia and Emmenia, carve their names into Hawks’ lore.
Every player has a story to tell, no matter the sport or position. I’ve been thankful to share bonds with the star basketball players, along with the third-string gridiron savants, and everyone in between. I might get paid to come out to the games, but as displayed with The Flourish Post, the same energy was kept when I wasn’t.
It can be difficult to trust an outsider, especially in a small town. Although the goal is to rise in the ranks, utilizing an area simply as a means of a stepping stone has never been my M.O. The community has always ranked high — not just by covering a game, but learning how the area operates. As there are eight different schools and four counties, there are just as many different personality traits to learn, and that’s not even getting into the sports. For a great deal of the area to provide their faith, it means the world to me.
It’s doubtful I’ll be in Kinston until 2019, but to everyone reading this in Eastern North Carolina, I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Let’s continue building together and I can’t wait to see smiling faces heading toward a new season. Flourish on.