Entering high school can be one of the most challenging times for individuals. You run into “problems” such as being included within a certain group of people, hoping you’ll have a date for the next school dance or making sure you get the new pair of Jordan’s that just went on sale. These “problems” in the moment and at that age can seem colossal. Eventually though, you realize how little they each mean in terms of fulfilling your purpose. For rising senior Maurice Smith, those realizations came much quicker than most.
“I was going into my tenth grade year at Mount Saint Joseph High School,” Smith told Prep Hoops. “It was in October when I found a lump on my chest. It was an annoying, itchy bump so on a Sunday night I showed my mother. The next morning she took me to the doctor. Once the doctor checked it out he sent me to the emergency room right away because it was abnormal. From there, I spent a whole week in the hospital. It took a week for them to do blood results and look over what they had found from when they did the surgery. When the results came back, it was positive for Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.”
Non-Hodgkins lymphoma is a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are a part of the body’s immune system. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma is the most common form of lymphoma, as the US sees more than 200,000 cases per year.
“I went into treatment right away,” Smith said. “By March (2016), I had beat it and my cancer was in remission. Because of the missed time, I repeated the tenth grade the following year, but the cancer came back. This time for treatment, I had to do both chemo and radiation. The first time around, I didn’t do any radiation treatment. So in March of 2017, I started back up with chemo treatment and by June of 2017 it was completely gone. Ever since, I’ve been in remission and building my stamina ever since then.”
A journey that can now be so quickly told, was devastating for Smith. At the age of 15, you aren’t supposed to have these problems. Being a kid and continuing to grow should be the only things on the agenda, or at least that’s how it should be. But for Smith, he learned at that young age that nobody is invisible and adversity will come at you at any given time.
“It was devastating because I felt like my ninth grade year was my best year playing basketball,” Smith continued, “I had a really good summer on the UA Circuit with Baltimore’s Finest. I just felt like my game was coming together and I was playing great around that time. Just to get that news was devastating.”
Smith had potential to be a very good player coming into high school. After getting adjusted at Mt. St. Joe, he made some noise on the UA Circuit and was priming for a big sophomore season. That was the plan until the cancer returned. Smith was faced with yet another life threatening challenge. What did he do? Stayed strong.
“I cried every once and while, but through everything I was positive. I never kept my head down and always kept a smile on my face. I never let anyone bring me down. That’s why I really think I beat it. When the majority of people get told they have cancer they pout and whine about it, but I was strong through it all and made sure to still do the things I loved to do. I didn’t let cancer beat me. It was tough, but I got through it with family support and everyone who supported me through my campaign.”
You could see the movement of “MaurStrong” happening around the Baltimore area. Whether it was on social media or even in local Pro-Am or men’s leagues, there was always attention being brought to Smith’s campaign.
When faced with these kinds of situations, usually people will grasp onto a specific quote, song or story that helps them get through each day of pain. For Smith, it wasn’t any of those three things. I boiled down to the one thing that he’s known his entire life.
“Basketball,” Smith said as a credit to helping him get through beating his cancer. That was it. Just basketball. I just wanted to get back on the court. I want to be the first person who beat cancer at a young age and play in the NBA. That’s just my goal for right now.”
So far in his young life, Smith has done exceedingly well checking off the goals he has had for himself. Many are quick to say that making it to the NBA is impossible, but those same people are the type to view beating cancer as an impossibility. Smith did it twice, so betting against him wouldn’t be the smartest of things to do.
However before he continues living out his goals of making it to the NBA, Smith must finish high school first. As he continues to have a strong spring/summer for Team BBC’s 17U Blue team, Smith will play out his senior season at New Town High School. The Titans return a number of key players that will make them a tough out in Baltimore County. Smith isn’t just looking to come in and play, he wants to unite with his teammates and take home every thing possible.
“I’m excited for my season at New Town,” Smith said. “I just want to get in there and help us win counties, win a state title and maybe even get player of the year.”