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Missy Smith was the star on some of Forest Grove's best hoops teams

Even from her youngest years, Missy Smith was a leader.

The oldest of three children, Smith used to give younger brothers Jeremy and Brady directions in their games.

“I would be like, ‘OK, I’m going to be the catcher and one’s the pitcher, one’s the batter,’” she recalled. “In football season, it was, ‘OK, you’re the wide receiver, you’re the defensive back. I’m going to throw you passes. You run patterns.’”

While Forest Grove did not offer a girls youth basketball league in Smith’s childhood years, that did little to deter her — she just played with boys. (In fact, current Forest Grove athletic director Doug Thompson is a former teammate). Soccer and softball also kept her busy.by: COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY - Missy Smith starred on the basketball court at Forest Grove High School before taking her talents to the college level at Gonzaga University and Oregon State.

That childhood filled with playing sports with family and friends served her well in preparation for her time at Forest Grove High School. A 1988 graduate, Smith was the Vikings’ commander on the basketball court for four years, steering the team to a conference title and then through the challenging transition to Metro League play. In softball, she was a top-notch shortstop on a perennial playoff team for three seasons.

For her excellence in Vikings uniforms, Smith has been selected to the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. This year’s class, the fourth overall, will be inducted in a ceremony scheduled for Sept. 28 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.

“I didn’t even know it was in the works or even thought of, so I was like, ‘Wow, this is exciting,’” Smith described of her reaction upon learning she would be honored.

Growing up in Forest Grove, Smith loved sports from a young age. She recalled memories of watching sports on television with her dad, Jerry, already able to identify holding penalties in football when she was just 7 or 8.

“I’d watch everything — basketball, football, baseball, whatever — because my dad was a huge sports fanatic,” Smith said. “And I just totally got hooked into sports, whatever we could play at the time. But I really fell in love with basketball.”

Smith started her high school sports career on the junior varsity soccer pitch, but she played only that freshman season, recognizing that her future was on the court. That winter, she made her mark quickly, moving to the varsity full-time after swinging up from JV for several games.

From there, she never looked back. Eventually growing to about 5-foot-10, Smith was gifted with height, a luxury for a point guard. She was not just tall. Smith was a gifted offensive player, one that teammate and longtime friend Jill Durham described as a leader and a terrific teammate on a close-knit squad.

“She just knew how she was going to take that team apart,” Durham said. “She just knew, coming down the court, ‘Well, this girl is not going to stop me, so if they bring somebody from over here, this is what I’m going to do.’ She just understood the game.”

Smith’s abilities were honed by hours and hours of work on her own. Forest Grove basketball coach Don Adams gave Smith a key to the school gym, so many mornings before school, her dad dropped her off early and she shot baskets before showering and going to class.

Her parents both worked full-time, so she also was something of a fixture at Adams’ house, and described Don and his wife, Sharon, “as like my other parents.” Smith often went over to watch game film with Adams, snacking on Sharon’s chocolate cake.

All of Smith’s work on the court and study off of it developed her into a standout player. She was a four-time team MVP (sharing the honor as a freshman), a three-time all-conference first team pick and a three-year team captain.

Her sophomore year, Smith led the Vikings in points, rebounds and assists, as well as to an 11-1 Willamette Valley League record, the conference championship and a berth in the state tournament.

“Missy was quite the general coming down the court, so she could pick apart their defense, and we had two 6-foot girls on our team,” recalled Durham. “The senior class when we were sophomores was really strong, and so she had lots of options. If they would double-team her or whatever, then she had lots of places to drop it off, which just made all of us look that much better.”

Her success continued in her upperclassman years, despite the move to the elite Metro League. Smith recorded 262 points and 76 assists as a junior, when the Vikings just missed a playoff berth. The next year, Forest Grove pushed for second place in the Metro before settling for third and losing in the first round of the playoffs. On a 16-6 squad, Smith scored 314 points and had 121 assists, and she was a unanimous first team all-league selection.

The league games against Glencoe were particularly spirited, with several contests coming down to the last second.

“We would fight and claw and it would always be an amazing game,” Smith said. “It would be somebody would throw it in at the buzzer and break somebody’s heart, or it would be we couldn’t quite get there, but it was just something about them.”

In softball, Smith was a two-time first team all-league selection for the Vikings. Her sophomore and junior seasons, the team went 20-3 and 23-5, respectively, losing in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. She also lettered in track and field as a senior.

Smith earned a full scholarship to Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. — earning freshman all-conference honors — before finishing her eligibility at Oregon State. She was a part-time starter and frequent contributor at shooting guard in Corvallis, where she added center field duties in softball for two years before graduating with a degree in exercise and sports science in 1993.

Currently, she is the physical education department head at Oregon Episcopal School, where she coaches the girls basketball team and the boys and girls golf teams.

Even today, Smith credits her experiences at Forest Grove with shaping her, instilling within her a desire to work hard and give her full effort.

“It gave me the opportunity to go on and pay for my college education, which is huge,” Smith said. “It just gave me so many things in life.”

Smith lives in Portland with her partner, Tami Cayton, and young daughter, Cayton Smith, who is following in mom’s footsteps by playing basketball with the boys.

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