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Smoldt plays a role for IBCA all-star champs
April 2, 2017

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GRIMES - Joe Smoldt will graduate from Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School as the seventh-leading scorer in the history of Iowa boys basketball. He received the coveted 2017 Mr. Basketball award on top of countless other honors during his career, and his playing days will continue thanks to a scholarship at NCAA Division II Upper Iowa University.

All he wants is to win.

Smoldt played two last prep basketball games on Saturday at Dallas Center-Grimes High School, helping the Northeast team go 2-0 to win the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association All-Star series.

Smoldt scored six points in the first victory - a 105-102 triumph against a Southeast squad featuring Iowa City West's standout tandem of Connor McCaffery and Devonte Lane - and chipped in seven points in a 105-77 rout of the Northwest unit in the finals.

An initial glance gives off an underwhelming contribution from one of the state's most prolific scorers, but the state's all-time leading scorer - Smoldt's future head coach - didn't see it that way.

"I think what a lot of people don't realize about Joe is he's a great passer," said Upper Iowa head coach Brooks McKowen, who piled up 2,831 points in his four years at Wapsie Valley before playing at Northern Iowa. "I don't think the common fan will see that if you're just watching a game because, yes, he has put up some amazing numbers throughout his whole career, but that was his role on his team in high school. Don't get me wrong, we're going to expect him to score for us too - he's going to fill it up - but he passes so well, and you put a talented group of guys with him today that can score, he's going to distribute first."

Smoldt, who averaged 21.4 points per game in his 110-game career at Gladbrook-Reinbeck, totaled just 13 in his last two high school outings. For the day he shot a combined 3-for-8 from the field, 7-for-7 at the free-throw line, while compiling six assists, three rebounds and three steals. In the shoot-first, pass-later atmosphere of the all-star series, Smoldt was more than content to be a member of the supporting cast rather than resume his role at the top of the roster.

"I'm not the only one out there who can make plays, and I think I'm a pretty good passer too as well as a scorer, and sometimes I want to show people that," Smoldt said. "At the next level it's not going to be like high school where you score 30 a game. I think a lot of people think [I should do that] too, but I play how I want to play and that's all that matters and that's all I think about.

"And," he said, gesturing to the scoreboard, "winning."

The Northeast squad was led on this particular day by Waverly-Shell Rock's Austin Phyfe. The 6-foot-10 center headed to Northern Iowa scored 19 and 12 points in respective victories en route to being named the tournament MVP. Austin Ash of Mount Vernon and Drake Brewster from Cedar Rapids Kennedy, also from the Northeast squad, were named to the all-tournament team as well.

Smoldt didn't attempt his first shot of the day until more than 10 minutes had passed in the opening-round contest against the Southeast.

"He's too unselfish," said Northeast coach Jon McKowen, Cedar Rapids Kennedy's head coach and Brooks' older brother. "It's funny because I called Brooks after the practice we had. It took Joe 15-to-20 minutes to shoot the ball when we were going up and down, and Brooks says, 'Yeah, that's kind of his personality. He makes sure everybody else is playing the right way and then he makes five 3s in a row.'"

Smoldt, who averaged 29.8 points per game in helping Gladbrook-Reinbeck to a Class 1A state runner-up finish this winter, just wants to win and doesn't care what he has to do to make it happen. This, too, was his fourth all-star game since the end of the high school season - all in the last nine days. The IBCA All-Star Games carries the most import of the four, Smoldt said, and not just because it's more prestigious than the rest.

"I think these mean a little bit more, just playing with the guys again one last time, is probably the most fun part about it," he said. "It's always a fun time playing with these guys, especially when we're winning it makes it even more fun. And you get to spend the whole day, not just play games - that's probably the most enjoyable part, and also being able to represent my school and community too is a big thing, and knowing that I've been successful and that I was selected to play in this."

Ash, one of Smoldt's Iowa Barnstormers AAU teammates, was the only player to outshoot Smoldt in the boys' 3-point contest, winning 24-20 in the final round. Smoldt advanced through the first two rounds with 24 and 25 points, respectively, while Ash had 21 and 25 and finished with a 70-69 overall advantage.

Ash was promptly defeated by Miss Basketball Elle Ruffridge of Pocahontas Area, 25-17, in the shootout finals. Ruffridge, whose Indians won back-to-back 3A girls' state championships, closed her career with 2,951 points, 802 assists and 466 3-pointers - all state records.

Ruffridge and Smoldt received their Miss and Mr. Basketball trophies prior to Saturday's final round.

"Playing in my last high school basketball games and to top that off with that award is nice, but the most enjoyable part was playing with the guys again and having fun and playing in a style like this you don't play in very often," Smoldt said. "The 3-point contest was different than any other all-star game and I think it was a lot more fun, too."

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