Junior Michaelle Smith was a big part of the reason that Jonesboro reached the Class AAAA playoffs for her play from the middle hitter position. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
All-County Volleyball Team
Player of the Year: Michaelle Smith, Jonesboro
Coach of the Year: Earl Simmonds, Jr., Mount Zion
Chelsea Bryant, Mount Zion, Sr. :Helped lead senior team by example
Ashanti Finnie, Mount Zion, Sr.: Was vocal leader for county champions
Chelona Holmes, Lovejoy, Sr.: Helped team post consecutive playoff berths
Lakiah Sims, Drew, Sr.: Also known as one of area’s top basketball players
Victoria Sutton, Jonesboro, Soph.: Undersized player was key setter on playoff team
Kendall Thomas, Jonesboro, Sr.: Played multiple position for state playoff team
JONESBORO — Michaelle Smith was groomed to play basketball.
As the oldest child of a former college basketball player, she learned the game at a young age from her father, Michael, who played at Alabama A&M University.
But Jonesboro boys’ basketball Coach Dan Maehlman saw another sport that Smith had potential to play at a high level.
Last season, Maehlman, who also coaches the volleyball team, approached the then-sophomore about trying out for the Cardinals team.
She decided to give it a try, and became hooked on the sport.
“Coach pulled me to the side, and talked me into coming out for the squad,” Smith said. “I really liked it, and sort of got hooked on it. Only thing I’ve known my entire life has been basketball. This year was one of the best I’ve had, and it sort of opened my eyes. I’m starting to love volleyball more.”
But she is not ready to entirely ditch her basketball future.
As a sophomore last season, Smith, who is known as “Mike” by classmates, helped lead the basketball team to the Class AAAA semifinals. As a starter for the 26-5 squad, she was the team’s second-leading rebounder and third-leading scorer. She is expected to play an even bigger role on the team this season with the graduation of several top players.
“Since my dad was a former basketball player, I had no choice,” said Smith, the oldest of three siblings. “Playing volleyball was a big adjustment for me. This was a good season, but I had some falls as I continue to learn the game.”
To sharpen her volleyball skills, Smith said she will likely join a year-round club team.
With the added experience, Maehlman said Smith will likely have a choice between which sport to play in college. He said that Smith should have an offer in both sports by her senior season.
“She has been a huge part of our team success this season,” Maehlman said. “A couple coaches even voted for her as the area player of the year. If you take her out of the mix with our team, we struggle to score. She is just an incredible athlete.”
She started last season in volleyball in her year in the sport. Maehlman said she has a lot of potential, and is one of the most coachable players he has had during his tenure.
“She listens to what you tell her, and she wants to get better,” he said. “She has made the adjustment it takes to be a good volleyball player. She is a good athlete, but what makes her unique is that she works very hard at it.”
And her newfound love for volleyball has opened another door for her.
“She will either go to school on a basketball scholarship or a volleyball scholarship, but will have the opportunity to play both,” Maehlman said.
Off the basketball and volleyball courts, Smith is just as popular with her classmates.
Last month during homecoming festivities, she was chosen Miss Junior by her classmates.
“It was very exciting to get that honor,” Smith said. “Right now, my focus is on helping the basketball team get back to the state playoffs. I have a huge role with the team, and I look forward to that challenge.”