Kaden Smallwood has been a standout on the basketball court all four years at Greater Beckley Christian.
However, Smallwood has always been quick to give credit to God for his triumphs and standing by him through the tough times.
After a stellar senior season which included leading the Crusaders to the Class A state championship game and being named first-team all-state, Smallwood’s faith and patience were tested again.
Convinced that he had the talent to play college basketball, Smallwood was forced to play the waiting game to see if he would get an offer to play at the next level.
Saturday afternoon inside the GBC gymnasium where he had played so many electrifying games, Smallwood saw his dream finally come true when he signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball at Davis & Elkins College.
“When Covid happened, it interfered with the recruiting process because college players were given a fifth year of eligibility, Smallwood said. “Then the transfer portal came about and recruiting started to come more from other colleges. That slowed the high school recruiting down. Once that happened it made it tough on everything.”
“There were times in my head where I wondered if I would get recruited anymore,” Smallwood admitted. “I just prayed about it and kept God first. I kept working and believing and finally dark turned into light. It has been a great process, even through the ups and downs. I can’t thank everybody enough that has been part of the process with me. It is a blessing. Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to play college basketball and now it has finally come true.”
Although it took time, the fact that Smallwood was one of the select few to get a college offer really should come as no surprise.
Greater Beckley head coach Justin Arvon explained what has made his standout guard such a special player.
“Reliable, trustworthy, hard working and coachable are the words that I would use to describe Kaden during his high school career,” Arvon said. “He has come a long way since he was a freshman, not only in size and stature, but also in how he handles himself on and off the floor. He has prioritized things, even since the end of the season. I am very proud of him. Coach (Brian) Helton had him his first two years and he is very proud of him as well. We are excited to see what the future holds, but we know he is going to be successful.”
Nothing has come easy per se for Smallwood over his high school career.
Two times he was denied a trip to the state tournament with losses to historic teams in the regional co-final.
The Crusaders won the regional co-final his sophomore season, only to be denied a trip to Charleston when the state tournament was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic.
This year as a senior, a strong season appeared to be derailed when several teammates were deemed ineligible just prior to the postseason tournament.
Smallwood never wavered, he just kept his head down and continued to grind for his elusive goal.
“We were down 12 to Mount View in the sectional game where it was win or go home. At the end of the third quarter, we are still down and Kaden comes out of the huddle with tears in his eyes and yelling this isn’t over, this isn’t over,” Arvon recalled. “Then he proceeds to go 9-for-9 from the foul line to help us win the game and we went on to make the state title game. He really put the team on his back and showed great leadership. Mind you, he did all of this with basically a hole in his hand, which makes it even more impressive.”
The college choice for Smallwood came down to Davis & Elkins and Alderson Broaddus. The Senators had three former standouts from Woodrow Wilson who were like older brothers for him, while A-B had one of his best friends in Webster County standout, Rye Gadd.
“I met with the (D&E) coach on my visit and he was a very cool dude. He let me know that he wouldn’t guarantee me anything, but If I came in and out-worked somebody for a spot, then it is what it is,” Smallwood said. “That made me feel comfortable because I know I am a hard worker. I know what I can put out and I have confidence in that. I feel like I can go in a earn a spot.”
“That, along with Ben Gilliam, Breland (Walton) and Cortney (Walton) being there made me feel even more comfortable. I play with them some in the summer and I have really felt comfortable playing with them and talking with them. I have been close with them for as long as I can remember.”
While playing with Gadd was something Smallwood relished, in the end, it came down to the best opportunity to see time on the floor.
“I spoke with Rye a couple of times and he really wanted me to come. A-B is a really young team. They have the freshman of the year and he is a guard. Rye is going up there and they only have one senior,” Smallwood said. “With Davis & Elkins, this will be the last year for Cortney and Breland and there are three or four more seniors leaving after next year. With them bringing me in and making me feel comfortable, it will settle me in for the next year. Hopefully the next year will be mine and Ben’s year.”