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Smith reclassifies, will play at USCA next year

The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis Broadalbin-Perth Mackenzie Smith signed her National Letter of Intent to attend and play basketball at the University of South Carolina Aiken in 2021.

BROADALBIN — It is an opportunity Broadalbin-Perth’s Mackenzie Smith felt she could not pass up.

Opting to graduate at the end of the 2020-21 school year, Smith, a 6-foot junior forward, signed her National Letter of Intent Thursday to attend and play basketball at the D-II University of South Carolina Aiken of the Peach Belt Conference, next year instead of completing her senior year at Broadalbin-Perth.

“They were one of the first colleges I talked to and it just felt like the right place for me,” Smith said. “They are nice people and offered me opportunities that I felt like I couldn’t pass up. They asked if I wanted to stay until 2022 or reclassify. They offered me a full scholarship if I reclassed, so I took it. I felt like if I didn’t, it would have been a missed opportunity.”

Players looking to reclassify must satisfy the same academic requirements as any prospect hoping to gain eligibility on a traditional high school schedule. The NCAA requires prospects to have graduated from high school, while completing 16 core courses to be eligible to play immediately in college. Ten of those core courses, including seven in English, math or science must be completed with at least a 2.3 grade point average plus an SAT or ACT score that meets a certain threshold before a prospect’s seventh semester of high school to qualify.

A variety of factors can make meeting the requirements for early graduation easier or harder for a prospect, including the player’s original class, when the decision to reclassify is made, previous academic work and age.

Smith plans to study nursing at USCA.

“I like sports medicine but I definitely want to work in the medical field,” Smith, whose mother, April Montenaro, is an RN.

Like many local athletes, Smith is waiting word on when practice will start for the 2020-21 basketball season.

“I text Coach [Tucker] Gifford almost every day asking if he has heard anything yet,” she said. “I will be very upset if we don’t play this year.”

Heading into her fourth year of varsity competition, Smith is just 153 points shy of the 1,000-point career scoring milestone.

“I started [varsity] in eighth grade,” she said. “[Coach Gifford] put a lot on my shoulders, making me a captain. He believed in me and I had just moved here [from Amsterdam] so I didn’t really know anybody at that time.”

Smith thanked everyone who has supported her throughout her high school and AAU playing careers.

“I have to thank Coach Gifford and Scott Alvarez, my AAU coach who hooked me up with all the colleges,” Smith said. “My mom is my biggest supporter. I especially want to thank my teammates for always believing in me and getting the passes to me.”

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