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Dr. Smith leads Gateway to district title

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Gateway Christian after defeating Tatum for the district championship Saturday, 48-39. (Submitted Photo)

The doctor is in. In fact, Dan Smith is always in whether at his office or adjusting his client’s bodies to get them back in working order. Alternatively, if he’s on the basketball court working on his team to make sure they are in, getting the optimal level of execution out of themselves as a winning basketball team.

Gateway’s Alonzo Grajeda drives the lane and puts up a shot in a recent game against Hagerman. (Shawn Naranjo Photo)

This is where Dr. Smith transforms to coach Smith and lives the other half of his dream. Here he teaches his philosophy on basketball and the intricacies of the motion offenses to the athletes of Gateway Christian.

In today’s world, most people never get a chance to live one dream, let alone two. Smith’s doing both, as a chiropractor during the day, and after business hours, he trades his lab coat in for a whistle around his neck.

Smith is a former basketball player and has loved the game from the time he took it up. It was a passion that wouldn’t go away. As soon as he graduated college, he coached Yucca before he had children. New Mexico Military high school coach Sean Schooley told Smith he’d make an excellent coach and helped him get involved with soccer and basketball.

Smith coached at New Mexico Military Institute as a junior varsity coach for a season before taking over varsity midway through his second season as a head coach.

“I’m a huge basketball fan,” Warriors coach Kevin Smith said. “I enjoy watching basketball all over. An opportunity presented itself for me to coach at NMMI and then Gateway.”

What was at stake for the Warriors on Saturday night was nothing more than the district tournament title. Gateway defeated Tatum on Feb. 2, at home, 40-27, by holding the Coyotes to two points in the third quarter. In their return matchup at Tatum, it was the Coyotes who defeated the Warriors 59-54 in two overtimes as Gateway scored only one point in the second overtime.

In the rubber game of the season, nothing was more satisfying than on Saturday night when Gateway went on the road and throttled the No.1 team in the district. The Warriors won by shutting down high-scoring guard Sebastian Jimenez with excellent defensive guard play as they won 48-39.

“We were really emphasizing defense,” Smith said. “Wyatt Arlett and our other guard did a great job on their leading scorer. They contained him, and we feel that was the difference in the game. We had great guard play that night with Jaydon Stephen and Joe Wide giving us scoring.”

One of the main differences between this season and last has been that Smith had a year to work with his team and teach them his system. Smith doesn’t feel like this team has surprised him this season, to the contrary, he was expecting big things from the work the team had put in during summer camps and preseason. The team finished last season with a 20-9 record improving from last season’s 14-13.

“This win gives us a confidence going into the state tournament. As the eighth seed, it doesn’t matter, let’s seed them up and go play.”

Gateway has not played Dora this season and one of the things that concerns coach Smith is Dora has some size and could present matchup problems. Gateway will normally run a man-to-man defense and will vary the scheme depending on the team and game they are playing.

Gateway on offense doesn’t push the pace a lot, preferring to set it up and run a motion offense. During practice, he likes to teach his team how to move without the basketball and get open. Their offense is almost like a high school San Antonio Spur. Smith believes in adjusting his coaching style to fit the talent; he has to fit his team.

“One of the things I like about Gateway is that prayer is not frowned upon,” Smith said. “I will coach anywhere because I love working with kids. I think being at Gateway is a wonderful opportunity.”

Gateway is a young team with only one senior, Alonzo Grajeda. With height as a strength, the Warriors are comfortable playing inside and out. With a young team, Smith thinks his team will be good for years to come as the Warriors play a lot of sophomores. With Grajeda, Smith feels like he can play three- or four-position. Grajeda has a strong post game and inside moves with an outstanding mid-range game.

“The boys have had a great season,” Smith said, “the boys have learned a lot. I am looking forward to the postseason to see how we do.”

Smith’s goal is to improve the kids who play basketball for him, that they will have a high basketball IQ and be better players when they graduate from high school.

“Our team’s motto this year had been us,” Smith said. “Which means, it is not about any one player getting the glory, but about the team getting the glory.”

Gateway will host Dora at 6 p.m. on Saturday.