Former Cavalier leads Pace Academy to state title

By Kevin Eckleberry

keckleberry@civitasmedia.com

HOGANSVILLE – Demetrius Smith was a special player for the Callaway Cavaliers.

He was a two-time player of the year in Georgia in his classification, and he helped the Cavaliers enjoy a lot of success under head coach Terry Hayes.

Now, Smith is making his mark on the sidelines as the head coach of the Pace Academy basketball team that beat Manchester 65-43 on Friday to win the Class AA state championship.

Hayes, whose Cavaliers lost in the second round of the Class AAA state tournament this season, is thrilled to see the success enjoyed by his former player.

“I’m very proud of him,” Hayes said on Friday afternoon before the championship game. “I’m pulling for Pace Academy.”

After Smith left Callaway, he played basketball at the University of Alabama, and he was on the team that advanced to the elite eight of the NCAA tournament in 2004.

He joined the Pace Academy staff in 2006 as a community coach, and he joined the staff full time in 2007, and now he’s a state-championship coach.

When Smith was at Callaway, Hayes said he felt he had what it took to be a successful coach one day.

“He had great court awareness, a great knowledge of the game,” Hayes said. “He was a great motivator. He wasn’t a big talker. He led by example.”

On the court, Hayes said Smith could do it all.

“He was an all-around player,” Hayes said. “If he wanted to rebound, he could rebound. If he wanted to shoot, he could shoot. If wanted to pass, he could pass. He was a great player.”

The state championship was the first for Pace Academy (20-10), which finished the season on a nine-game winning streak, with five of those wins coming in the state tournament.

Pace Academy, led by 6-foot-8 Wendell Carter Jr. who had 30 points and 20 rebounds in the championship game, won each of its five state-tournament games by at least 10 points.

Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports