Judging by the smile on his face and the enthusiasm he showed before Thursday night’s game, no one was happier than Tyrus Smiley to be in a Greenport High School boys basketball uniform. Smiley said he appreciates basketball now more than ever, given what he has been through.
And Greenport’s fans gave an indication of how appreciative they are to have him back playing for the Porters less than two months after he was shot in the abdomen Dec. 7. Smiley said the bullet struck his colon and liver. It looked like the 6-3 forward’s senior season was done for sure, but he was happy to be alive.
“It could have been worse,” acknowledged Smiley, who spent six days in Stony Brook University Medical Center where he said he received about 300 visitors. “I’m definitely lucky to be here.”
Smiley received medical clearance to play on Monday. His first game back was Tuesday. He came off the bench for nine points in a 118-49 pounding of Ross on the road.
On Thursday, Smiley made his return to Greenport’s Richard “Dude” Manwaring Gymnasium, wearing his No. 21 jersey, a white headband and a big smile. In a 76-42 defeat of Southold in a battle of North Fork neighbors, he entered the game with one second left in the third quarter to rousing applause from fans. “I felt the love,” he said.
On his first significant touch off an alley-oop pass from Joshua Santacroce, Smiley missed the layup. He later assisted on an Ahkee Anderson layup before scoring his only two points on a pick-and-roll off a wonderful pass from Jaxan Swann.
“I played good minutes, a little bit tired, but it was good minutes,” said Smiley, who played 6 minutes, 54 seconds before returning to the bench. “I try to help the team any way I can … The stamina is the biggest thing right now, otherwise I feel perfect.”
The fact that Smiley is back at all is “unbelievable,” said Greenport coach Ev Corwin.
“I just monitor him a little bit,” Corwin said. “He has no restrictions.”
Of the incident involving the shooting, Smiley only said that press accounts were incorrect and “I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Others didn’t expect Smiley to play again for the Porters, and even Smiley had his doubts. “I didn’t think so,” he said. “I tried to come back as soon as possible. It was whether my body was feeling it or not.”
The Porters (15-1, 9-0 Suffolk County League VII) surely were feeling it as they cruised to their 14th straight win and 18th in a row in league play dating back to last season. They are 32-1 in league games over the past three seasons and are ranked third in the state in Class C by the New York State Sportswriters Association.
Greenport gave Southold (8-7, 5-4) all it could handle. The Porters never trailed, leading by 31-16 after the first quarter. They outscored Southold, 21-3, in the second quarter when the First Settlers were held to 1-for-17 shooting from the field.
Jude Swann put up 22 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks for Greenport. Anderson scored 21 points. Jaxan Swann had a tremendous game, totaling 16 points, 11 assists, seven steals, two rebounds and a block. “Jaxan’s amazing,” Smiley said. “Jaxan knows how to put the ball on a dime.”
Corwin called Jaxan Swann “the best conditioned player I’ve ever been around. You never see him get tired.”
Zach Riggins helped out on the boards with 11 rebounds.
Steven Russell was Southold’s top scorer with 13 points. Van Karsten added nine.
Anderson was among those amazed at Smiley’s comeback. “I thought he was done for the season,” the junior guard said. “And the craziest thing is he was back in a month. He came in and looked exactly like himself. He’s happy, but you can tell the whole team is happy to have him back. He brings the energy.”
How much does it mean to the Porters to have one of their original starters back in action?
“You’re adding a senior,” Corwin said. “You’re adding a highly athletic player. The guys just love having him back on the team.”
Smiley surely enjoys it as well. He said, “It feels good to be back.”
Photo caption: Greenport’s Tyrus Smiley, left, and Jude Swann warming up during halftime. (Credit: Garret Meade)