By NICHOLAS TRUJILLO
The power to overcome and defy odds. The power to push yourself past limits to a place you never imagined. The power you get from the fire within you.
Sophomore guard Denesia Smith has hardened her will through life experiences, but she doesn’t let them hold back her smile.
“Everyone has their own battles and struggles, so I’m not going to sit here and carp on mine, because there’s someone else who is in a worse condition than me,” she said.
Smith fell on her hip before the current season. She now has misaligned hips, which causes back, hip and lower leg pain during her normal day. On the pain scale, she rates hers at a constant five or six out of 10.
“It was a small little pop and I couldn’t walk,” she said. “Since then, my left side has been locking up, and it’s ‘out aligned.’”
Smith spent her childhood in Houston living in a house with more than 10 residents.
“We all grew up more or less raised as brothers and sisters,” she said. “If one of us didn’t have food, clothing or a drink, then nobody else did. That was just kind of how we were brought up.”
There were days they went without food and it seemed normal to do so, Smith said.
“That was just the way life was,” Smith said. “It wasn’t until later that I realized, ‘hey, we kind of had it rough.’”
During her middle-school years, Smith’s family moved to Arizona after her mother got a new job in Sierra Vista.
Smith attended Buena High School and played on the varsity basketball team during her freshman to junior years. She averaged 10.4 points throughout her time with the Colts.
She spent her senior year at Cienega High School in Vail, where she totaled 258 points in her last high school season and shot a 47 percent field goal average.
The Bobcats made it to the state championship but lost to Senton Catholic High School.
The showdown will forever live in Smith’s mind as the game they should’ve won. A Senton player who now plays alongside Smith at Pima made the winning layup.
“BS call,” Smith said. “It was the last three seconds. The girl on my team right now, Reazsha Benjamin, gets a steal and goes down court on a fast break. The buzzer sounds when she goes up and gets the ball in the hoop.”
Smith says she has footage to prove the game was over before the layup. Benjamin isn’t sure whether her shot beat the buzzer.
“It was hard to tell,” Benjamin said. “I don’t think I did, but because the crowd was so loud and the refs were distracted by everyone, I think it was so hard to say they just counted it.”
Smith is now a court leader for the No. 1 ranked Aztecs.
“Nesi is one of the best athletes I’ve coached here at Pima,” head coach Todd Holthaus said. “She’s does whatever she needs to do so she can be out on the court with her team.”
When she first joined the Pima team, Smith was forced to redshirt due to knee and meniscus problems.
In the year after redshirting, she averaged 37 percent shooting field goals and 63 percent on the free throw line.
With her bad hip this season, Smith currently averages 33 percent shooting three pointers and 45 percent shooting field goals.
Smith goes to a trainer daily to get her hip popped back into place, and to use techniques that PCC athletic trainer Chris Murphy shows her to relieve pain.
“He’s gotta pop my hip back into place and get them re-aligned,” Smith said. “Murph gets it to where the pain is tolerable.”
However well she does in basketball, Smith hopes to find a career in something related to helping others.
“I just want to give and help people, you know,” she said. “In whatever form that may be ― counseling, psychiatry, being a teacher.”
Smith is attracted to the idea of working with children in fourth grade, because she sees how her little sister’s mind is growing.
“She’s still innocent and pure but I see the way she’s starting to learn and put things together,” Smith said. “I just love that whole process.”
She shows the same passion for life.
“You just gotta do what you gotta do and tough it out, you know?” Smith said. “It won’t be here forever. Take it day by day, and it’ll be OK.”