When Dwayne Smith decided to shoot the basketball for the last time in 2019, he was thinking about his 12-year-old son, Dwayne Smith Jnr. Smith had played professional basketball overseas for six years, away from his son in Canada, and he was determined not to miss out on any more of his son’s development. This introspection came after he sustained a hip injury during a game, and was out for some time.
“I was saying to myself, he’s getting older now, and these are the years when he’s about to be a teenager, he really needs his dad to teach him how to be a man, he needs a father figure to be in his life. So I made the decision to look for work that was stable and put my dreams, and aspirations on hold, and just work on his,” he said.
Smith had his son when he was 19-years-old and still in high school. His basketball dreams then took him to schools in the United States, and then to playing all over the world. And while he was living his dream, maintaining communication with his son, and returning home for a month sometimes, he felt he was missing out on too many of his son’s formative years, and the chance to create a stronger bond.
“It was hard on me to be away from him, during his young years while I was pursuing my dream, it was hard on me, and it was hard on him as well. We communicated a lot, but a kid needs his father growing up, so it was tough,” he said.
Although his heart was in the right place when he retired, it didn’t make the transition from being a pro basketball player to a normal life any easier. Smith shared that it took him almost a year to get a stable job. And although there were times that he got frustrated, there was never a time that he regretted his decision.
“When you’re not playing anymore you go through uncertainty as to what’s next. And you have to come to terms that you’re done with your passion, I faced a lot of withdrawal periods. but it was a necessary move because you can’t play basketball forever, life after basketball does come one day, and that also fuelled my decision to end my career early so I can get ahead start on a career for the rest of my life,” he said.
“Being with my son, I’ve had lots of experiences that matter. When I was overseas, I was living my dream, but in the same sense I was being selfish as a parent. As a parent you have to let that selfishness go and do what’s in the best interest of your child, and I’m happy that I am able to play a bigger role in his life,” he said.
Smith is now employed as an account manager for a staffing company called Aero Workforce Solutions.
“We staff different companies with workers from our diverse talent pool. It’s a really fulfilling job, we’re able to help, especially right now during this COVID crisis, we’re able to help provide essential workers to the workforce,” said.
When I was overseas, I was living my dream, but in the same sense I was being selfish as a parent. As a parent you have to let that selfishness go and do what’s in the best interest of your child,”- Dwayne Smith
The stable job, which he said he absolutely enjoys, gives him the time to train his son, who is also a skilled basketball player and a member of Uplay Canada. Now, Smith’s new dream is to help his son achieve his dream of playing professional basketball.
“He’s training very hard, he has the same dream that I did, and it’s pretty kool that his dad was a professional basketball player so he’s looking forward to just following in his dad’s footsteps. I train him a lot, just try to get him prepared in every aspect, on the court, off the court principles, instilling in him the fundamentals that matter,” he said.
And for Smith, his bond with his son means everything to him, especially because his biological father was not a part of his life.
It was his older brother, stepdad, and mentor, Delroy Williams that pushed him to achieve his basketball dream, which saw him attending three different high schools. While at Pickerhill he played with players like Cory Joseph, Devoe Joseph, and Javon Miles.
And it was while playing here too, that he met Wayne Dawkins. “My athleticism was noticeable when I met Wayne Dawkins, I was a pretty decent player. But he helped to hone my skills. He is a great trainer, very good at what he does.”
The team was strong, and during Smith’s senior year, it won over 72 games and lost only one.
So it came as no surprise that this team was highly recruited. Most of the players ended up at division one schools in the United States, and Smith’s school of choice was George Washington University.
“My athleticism was noticeable when I met Wayne Dawkins, I was a pretty decent player. But he helped to hone my skills. He is a great trainer, very good at what he does,” Dwayne Smith
His University team did not win any championships while he was attending but during his sophomore year, the team made the top ten in the Atlantic Division.
One of his fondest memories from college was the day he got to meet President Barack Obama, during his freshman year.
“Our team was in Washington DC, and it just so happened that the other team’s head coach was Michelle Obama’s brother so they came to play us in Washington and Obama’s whole family came out to see the game. And after the game, we all shook hands, and I shook Obama’s hand and the photographer took a pretty great picture. The whole moment was surreal, I was amazed that I was able to meet such an influential person,” he said.
Smith graduated from University in 2013 with a degree in sociology and started playing for teams in Eastern Canada, he played for Island Storm, and Mounting Miracles.
In his first year as a professional, he also tried out for the Boston Celtics D-League team and made it up to the last cut, but unfortunately wasn’t chosen.
He then went on to play in Argentina and also played for teams in Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Dominican Republic, and China.
Smith said he thoroughly enjoyed his career, and now he’s looking forward to enjoying fatherhood.
“It was fun, it was amazing, I had a great time, but I came to a point in my life where my priorities changed and it was time to give my expertise to teach my son,” he said.