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Fenwick's Keshaun Smith (right) draws a foul on Nazareth's John Curran during their game Saturday evening at Fenwick High School in Oak Park. | Michael R. Schmidt ~ For Sun-Times Media
Neighborhood pick-up basketball games in Maywood can be pretty intense at times.
Fenwick junior Keshaun Smith credits those experiences with developing his style of play.
“Maywood is kind of a tough neighborhood,” Smith said. “I’m a tough kid and kind of play like that.”
Even though it came in a losing effort, Smith’s toughness was on full display Saturday against rival Nazareth.
In a typical aggressive effort, he scored five of his eight points and recorded two of his four steals in the fourth quarter. The Roadrunners still were able to hold on for a 61-55 nonconference victory at Fenwick.
“He’s that kind of kid,” Fenwick coach John Quinn said of Smith’s effort down the stretch. “He has that kind of spirit; all of us do. We want him to continue playing like that. He brings a lot of spirit and spunk to our team.”
Smith’s inspired play in the fourth quarter is just in his nature.
“I tried to step it up,” Smith said. “I’m one of the leaders on this team, even though I’m not a captain. As I go, my team goes, so I try to motivate everybody.”
Quinn pointed out that Fenwick’s record when it holds opponents to 45 points or less is 12-0 this season. That statistic plays right into the hands of Smith.
“My biggest strength is probably defense,” said Smith, who leads the team in steals. “I love to play defense. I’m trying to get my teammates involved. Defense is one of our biggest problems and everybody has to get involved in defense. Defense is what we need to breath.”
Smith is also a standout football player for the Friars, which was part of the reason he wound up attending Fenwick.
“A coach from Fenwick came to one of my (football) games,” Smith said. “I shadowed here and I liked it. I thought about the educational background I would have, so it seemed like a good fit.”
Quinn has been pleased with the strides Smith has made this season.
“He’s really come on,” Quinn said. “He’s been an outstanding person for us on and off the court. He’s a real team leader in his own way.”
Fenwick (14-10) is seeded fifth in the Class 3A Nazareth Sectional and will take on either No. 13 Timothy Christian or No. 20 Wells in the regional semifinal Tuesday.
Smith believes there is still time to turn the team’s fortunes around.
“We’re preparing for the playoffs now,” Smith said. “We’ve got to step it up. We have to figure out what we’re going to do, but I believe we’re physically and mentally ready. We just have to turn the negatives into a positive.”