Even After Losing Its Top Returning Player To An ACL Injury, Grant-Sacramento Has Never Been More Confident •
In an instant, everything came crashing down for TreShon Jones-Smoots.
The three-time All-Delta-League selection and leading scorer for the Grant Pacers last year landed awkwardly after going up for a layup during AAU competition over the summer and heard a pop.
“We were playing in L.A. and I went up for a layup,” Jones-Smoots recalled. “I got contact with the big man up top and came down wrong. I just landed wrong on a foul and I heard a pop.
“Medical staff at the tournament thought it was my hamstring.”
But it wasn’t his hamstring.
Upon his return to Sacramento, Jones-Smoots saw his own doctor, who revealed a torn ligament in his knee and broke the news that he would not be able to play basketball again for at least nine months, ultimately ending his fourth and final season in a Pacers’ blue and yellow jersey.
TreShon’s step-brother, A.J. McGee, a sophomore for Grant, was in the same tournament, playing on a different court at the time of the injury. But the devastating news hit both of them at the same time.
“We all thought it was a hamstring injury until we got home about a week later and he went to the doctor and they said it was an ACL tear,” McGee recalled. “That was tough because he was supposed to be a big part of the (Grant) team this year.
“So I was just trying to be there for him because I could see that he was hurting. He was really upset about that, especially because it’s his senior year. But we believe everything happens for a reason, so hopefully there’s a better plan for us.”
Jones-Smoot had nine offers coming into the year — most coming from the Mountain West and Big Sky conferences — including offers from San Jose State, Montana State, Northern Colorado and interest from Boise State.
“I really haven’t talked to many of those coaches since I tore my ACL, but I’ve heard from a few,” he acknowledged. “I’ve texted back and forth with Northern Colorado, but I don’t know where the offer stands.”
After averaging 23 points and seven assists per game last season, Jones-Smoots will have to watch his team contend in a competitive Delta League this season as they look to top last year’s 20-10 record and playoff berth. He will be relegated to the sideline, left to wonder what could have been after a productive offseason.
“That was my first year playing with Team Lillard,” Jones-Smoots said. “And it was going really well. I haven’t really played with skilled big men before, so coming off screens and getting free to shoot was much easier. It really opened my game.”
Despite the season-ending injury, the prolific scorer is keeping his head up, focusing on the positives and waiting for a chance to return. He’s also willing to help his teammates.
“I’ll help coach throughout the year, and hopefully I can learn a thing or two just from watching,” Jones-Smoots said. “I’m in the rehab phase now, so I just have to keep working at it.”
While Jones-Smoots is regaining motion in his leg during sessions at Kaiser Permanente’s Golden 1 Center location, Grant is preparing to rely on underclassmen. Their leading scorer from a year ago is their only senior, and without him they’ll be young. But that hasn’t stifled coach Deonard Wilson’s enthusiasm as the team approaches the start of the regular season.
“Honestly, I think this is a team that will contend for the section title,” the veteran leader said. “So for me, anything less than getting an invite for the state tournament would make us feel like we underachieved.”
The team returns 60 percent of its starters after losing their second-leading scorer, Cameron Davis, to graduation and Jones-Smoots in the offseason. “Not having those two is tough, but we return the rest of our guys and we got a few talented transfers,” Wilson pointed out.
Wilson will lean on his backcourt duo of McGee and Steven Richardson, who was the team’s third-leading scorer last year at 14.5 points per game. Those two will get the Pacers in their offensive sets and control the tempo of the game — something they’re accustomed to doing.
“Fortunately for us, we’ve got a lot of high-basketball IQ guys with a lot of AAU experience,” Wilson acknowledged. “So they’ve picked up the system pretty quick.”
Richardson, a junior, is a lengthy shooting guard with a pterodactyl-like 6-9 wingspan. He has the size to block shots, and the speed to blow past defenders on offense and finish at the rim. But, he’s really improved his shooting stroke this offseason. “I spend an hour before almost every practice just shooting and dribbling,” said Richardson. Who also has garnered a lot of attention from the Mountain West Conference. “I feel like I’ve improved a lot.”
Much like McGee and Jones-Smoots, Richardson was traveling with an AAU squad over the summer. He joined fellow Grant product David Jones — a 6-foot-6 forward — on Team Lillard in the 16 age-group. That sort of experience should pay dividends in a competitive league.
“In my 20 years of coaching, this is definitely one of the deepest teams I’ve had,” Wilson said. “I really believe this is my most talented team, top to bottom. Now obviously we had Cameron Oliver, who went to the (NBA), we had Charles Jackson, who went to the (NBA).”
Oliver played for the Houston Rockets during the NBA Summer League and was waived at the close of training camp in October. He was recently claimed by the Wisconsin Herd, the G-League affiliate of the Milwaukee Bucks. Jackson spent a season in the G-League with the Delaware 87ers, a Philadelphia 76ers affiliate. “But those guys were one- and two-man ponies,” Wilson admitted. “This team is so deep that every day in practice is a battle.”
With a strong junior varsity group. Wilson knows it will be tough to rotate so many talented players next year — a good problem to have, in his eyes. “The problem is we have six sophomores on JV that could have played varsity this year,” Wilson pointed out. “We just didn’t have room. Because the football team missed the playoffs for the first time in 26 years, we had 36 guys try out. That’s the most I’ve seen.”
The Pacers, coming off a state playoff berth a year ago, could be in the mix for a championship this season. Wilson considers his team one of the top three in the Sac-Joaquin Section this year. Also, the players have similarly high hopes.
“I want to win a section title — that’s the ultimate goal,” McGee confessed. “If we go further than that, that will be great, but that’s my number one goal.”
Grant High School Basketball Story by STEVEN WILSON | Photos by DAVID LAWICKA