It's possible that Hixson senior forward D'Mondta Smith was tired of the whispers. He grew tired of people mentioning behind his back that he was a soft player -- mentally and physically. So far this season, he's been on a mission to quiet all of that talk.
Last week was just another example.
Despite two District 6-AA losses, Smith averaged 22.5 points, 19.5 rebounds and 7.5 blocked shots and was selected the Times Free Press player of the week.
The Wildcats currently are 7-13 and 1-7 in District 6-AA, with their last four league losses coming by an average of less than five points. In the past month, the 6-foot-6 forward has averaged around 24 points, 16 rebounds and eight blocks a game.
Smith had an 18-point, 13-rebound, seven-block performance in a Jan. 18 loss to Central, despite fouling out with about four minutes remaining. Hixson coach Alex Disbrow said Smith began the fourth quarter with no fouls.
"What I'm so proud of him for against Central is that in previous years he would have been upset and started blaming others," Disbrow said. "When he fouled out, he didn't lose his composure or blame other people; he took responsibility, said, 'I gave it all I had, Coach' and sat down.
"He's always had this knock of being a good, talented player, but he was soft at times and you could get in his head. Now he's learned from the past, and that's a big difference from previous years."
Disbrow noted that Smith has been facing double teams all season. That wasn't enough on Jan. 15, when the senior scored 27 points with a career-high 26 rebounds and eight blocks in a 59-50 loss to East Ridge.
"We haven't been winning, but D'Mondta's been doing his part," Disbrow said. "We've played good teams close, but we lose because of one or two possessions. Right now, he's on a mission not to let anything stop him; he has the mindset that he's the best player on the court and wants to prove it.
"He's learned a lot more about life than he has about basketball this season. He's learned how to handle adversity, and he's doing whatever is possible to help the team win."