Logan Smith stars for Skyuka Hall on and off the court

Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / Skyuka Hall sophomore Logan Smith drives to the hoop for a layup attempt in practice.

Inside the old YMCA basketball gym at the Eastgate Town Center, Logan Smith leads his Skyuka Hall varsity high school basketball team through practice on an early Tuesday morning the week of Christmas.

Smith is the first one called upon by coach Antonio McMath to run drills and showcase different looks in offensive sets or rebound drills, as he trusts the sophomore team captain to help the Wolf Pack learn and advance their game.

"These guys migrate to this boy," said Skyuka Hall basketball coach McMath, who is assisted by local hoops legend Orlando Lightfoot. "One of his teammates just wrote a paper and presented it to his classmates. He wrote about how Logan is his hero. For another teenager to say I look up to him because he not only inspires me, but he is like my big brother who encourages and helps me, is a big deal. Logan is truly a great leader and encourager."

With 120 students, Skyuka Hall is an independent, non-profit K-12 school specializing in serving children who have been diagnosed with a learning difference, such as: ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia or Asperger's syndrome.

In their first year of having a basketball program, Smith has stood out as an athletic 6-foot-1 point guard who can do a little bit of everything on the court. He also paved the way into the history books by becoming the first athlete in school history to make it to a state tournament competition.

As a freshman, Smith qualified for the TSSAA Division II-A state track and field meet last May with a discus throw of 106 feet. He taught himself how to do several track events by watching YouTube videos.

"I have always loved sports," Smith said. "I love being able to run, being outside and having that sense of freedom. I love baseball, track and basketball. Playing these sports has built great friendships and pushed me to never stop working. I pour everything I have into them."

Smith had to overcome several obstacles to make the track and field competition, including making it through team practices on the concrete parking lot around Eastgate last spring. This year they will be able to practice at a track close to Chattanooga Prep.

"Logan's growth has been huge," said his mother, Karen Smith, who works at the school and with the athletic programs. "He got here in seventh grade after Hamilton County had failed him. He was squandering. He actually asked for my pistol and he wanted to take his life because he didn't want to be a problem or burden for anybody else.

"He couldn't read and he was falling behind. His dream now is to one day give back to the community and be a mentor like his coach has been to him."

Smith is now reading at grade level and has taken advantage of having extra one-on-one time with teachers, as one of only eight students in his sophomore class.

His goal is to obtain a college scholarship to Middle Tennessee State University, where he wants to major in Physical Education.

"The teachers and coaches here have really shown me that nothing is going to come easy, but nothing is impossible either," Smith said. "You have to work for the things you want and put forth everything you have. I won't stop working until I succeed. Coach has definitely helped push me to my limits and instilled leadership and discipline in me."

Bringing a smile to others is important to the Smith family, which believes in putting others first.

"I want my classmates to know that no matter where you come from you are always able to fight through and do great things," Smith said. "From where I was at four or five years ago to now shows you that there is always a path to success."

With his junior and senior years still to come, Smith is helping set a standard for Skyuka Hall.

"Ten years from now people will look up on the wall and say, 'Wow, they went here,' " McMath said. "We have amazing kids here. To be a part of their journey is humbling. Logan's discipline is his greatest attribute. He comes in and does all the extra work and it rubs off on everyone. He is helping build a special legacy here."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com