The legacy of Ned Smith: a champion on and off the court

Published 9:34 am Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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BY C.Y. Peters

In the hallowed halls of the Carter County Sports Hall of Fame, where the echoes of athletic triumphs resonate through time, one name is set to be immortalized: Ned Smith. His journey from a fearless point guard to a revered coach has left an indelible mark on the journals of basketball history in Carter County.

The story of Ned Smith begins on the hardwood of Hampton High School in the early 1990s. As the starting point guard, he epitomized grit and determination, leading his team to the 1992 Class AA state semifinals. His mastery on the court earned him the title of All-Watauga Conference player, setting the stage for a remarkable journey ahead.

After high school, Ned’s passion for the game led him to Milligan University, where he continued to hone his skills and cultivate his leadership abilities. Little did he know that this was just the beginning of his basketball odyssey.

Fast forward to the early 2000s, and Ned found himself back in familiar territory, this time as a coach for Cloudland High School. Taking the reins in the 2001-02 season, he embarked on a nine-year tenure that would redefine the Highlanders’ basketball program. Under his guidance, Cloudland experienced unprecedented success, with three state tournament berths, five district tournament titles, and a slew of regional and sub-state crowns. The pinnacle of his tenure came in 2006 when Cloudland clinched its first-ever regional and sub-state titles, marking a historic moment for the school.

But Ned’s coaching journey didn’t end there. In 2011, he returned to his alma mater, Hampton High School, this time as head coach. Over the next thirteen seasons, he would chisel his name into the fabric of Hampton’s basketball legacy. With an impressive track record of eleven conference championships, six regional and substate crowns, and six state tournament berths, Ned’s impact was undeniable. However, it was the 2022-23 season that would cement his legacy as one of the greatest coaches in Carter County history.

In a dramatic turn of events, Ned led the Hampton Bulldogs to their first-ever Class 1-A state title. It was a moment of triumph that transcended the confines of the basketball court, uniting an entire community in celebration. His coaching acumen, coupled with his unwavering dedication to his players, earned him the prestigious title of TSSAA Coach of the Year—an accolade befitting of his unparalleled contributions to the sport.

But beyond the wins and accolades, Ned’s impact extended far beyond the confines of the basketball court. He was a mentor, a role model, and a beacon of inspiration for generations of young athletes in Carter County. His unwavering commitment to excellence, both on and off the court, served as a guiding light for those who had the privilege of crossing paths with him.

As Ned Smith will stand on the threshold of induction into the Carter County Sports Hall of Fame, his legacy serves as a testament to the power of perseverance, passion, and the unwavering pursuit of greatness. His journey—from a fearless player to a revered coach—embodies the very essence of sportsmanship, camaraderie, and the relentless pursuit of one’s dreams. And as his name is carved into the history books, it serves as a reminder to all who follow in his footsteps that with hard work, dedication, and a belief in oneself, anything is possible.

Ned Smith, a champion on and off the court, is forever enshrined in the hearts of those who had the honor of witnessing his greatness. He will be inducted into the Carter County Sports Hall of Fame on May 18th at 6 pm at Milligan University.

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