For The Passion: Freshman Damare Smith wins Junior NBA World Championship

Damare Smith and his team made the journey to Florida and took everyone by surprise.

Abigail Rosales and Sarah Milks

Earbuds in, basketball in hand, freshman Damare Smith prepares himself for one of the most important tournaments of the season.

Smith’s team, Drive5 Power Elite, was selected to represent the central region in a tournament run by the Junior National Basketball Association (JNBA). For the first time this summer, the JNBA chose eight teams, one from each region in the United States, to play in the JNBA World Championships at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. Smith’s team was selected after qualifying earlier this summer when they won the Central Region tournament.

“The JNBA is a welcoming environment and an amazing experience,” Smith said.

Drive5 made the journey to Florida and took everyone by surprise. They were unstoppable, defeating every team in their path. The final game was against the team representing Africa and the Middle East.

“We never expected to make it this far, but when we did we knew as a team we wanted to win,” Smith said. “When the game was over we all cried. we couldn’t believe it. We had won.”

Smith’s basketball career started at the age of six. Winning the JNBA World Championships is just one stop on his basketball path. He hopes to play in college and eventually follow his role model, Derrick Rose.

“It seems really fun to be able to make it that far in your career,” Smith said. “It’s all about the passion . I love to play.”

The JNBA has opened up many opportunities for Smith’s basketball future, but to him basketball isn’t as important as the way he portrays himself on and off the court.

“I love basketball, but I have to be humble, stay hungry for the game and just go out every day rather it be life or a game and win.” Smith said.

Smith is passionate about basketball and being a part of a team. Before playing, he listens to music, stretches, warms up and gets a couple shots in before the game.

“It’s all about how you warm up,” Smith said. “If I warm up great, I normally will have a good game.”

Smith plays at the point guard position. While in Orlando, Smith got the chance to meet point guard and shooting guard Dwyane Wade and shooting guard and small forward Vince Carter. They both gave some words of advice to the players.

“They told me to go out there and do my best every game.” Smith said “It sounds cliché, but coming from a person I look up to, it means a lot.”

Next year Smith hopes his team will return to Orlando to claim another trophy.

“I think they want us to come back.” Smith said. “It should be fun.”

Although Smith is passionate about basketball, what stands out the most is the environment around him during those 48 minutes on the court.  

“The fans, the environment, the culture.” Smith said. “Just the love for the game.”