Girls basketball standout Indya Smith has etched her name in the history books for both genders, and will continue adding on to her record in the remembrance of Kobe and Gianna Bryant
VISALIA – After breaking a 22-year-old scoring record, Indya Smith has left a lasting legacy on the Golden West basketball program. In a league game against Lemoore, Smith set the all-time career scoring record at her school — for both girls and boys — in front of her home Trailblazer crowd.
During the first quarter, she cut to the basket and received an assist from fellow senior Natalia Maldanado before finishing strong with her left hand. That bucket broke the previous record of 1,506 points, which was set by Jess McElree, a boy’s basketball standout from the mid-1990s.
“It’s a big accomplishment because not many people can say they did it. How many people have come through this school and how many people can say they were on that all-time scoring list?” Golden West head coach Torreya Edwards said. “A lot of people look at females as not being strong or fast enough, but for her to be the one to break the record for both genders is amazing to me.”
As Smith continues to add to her career scoring total, she will be doing so with a heavy heart. Five days after her record-breaking game, Smith joined the rest of the sports world in mourning the tragic loss of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, and seven others. Similar to millions of other people around the world, the news was unfathomable to Smith.
“I was praying it was a joke. I was hoping someone was just messing with the entire world because this is not something that should be happening at all,” she said. “He was the person that proved that it doesn’t matter your age or background, if you put in that work and have love and determination then you really can get anywhere you want.”
However, the news stung differently for Smith and her older brother. Similar to Bryant’s three other kids that survived him, Smith lost her dad at a young age.
“As weird as this might sound, my dad looks just like Kobe Bryant and they both passed away when they were 41 years old. They were both really young and it was such bad timing,” she said.
Her father was also a basketball player who looked up to Bryant. At just 9 years old, Smith says she was too young to fully understand the fact that her dad was gone. But a few years later, he served as her inspiration to begin playing basketball in the seventh grade.
Despite the fear of not making the team because she didn’t know how to properly play the game, her natural ability leapt out of her. A year later, she was approached by former Golden West varsity basketball coach Russell Gostanian. A year after that, she was a varsity starter as a freshman on a team full of juniors and seniors. That’s when the modest but confident Smith realized: “I could be pretty good at this sport.”
Fast forward to today, she has evolved into a dominant presence on the court. Her 5-foot-8 stature allows her to dominate on the boards, while her strong ball handling skills helps her maneuver through opposing defenses. She credits those skills to drills she used to do with her dad.
“He taught me little things that I’ve been able to incorporate into my game such as dribbling on rocks because then the ball won’t come directly back to you,” Smith said. “So you have to be quick and react to where it’s going.”
Edwards was new to Golden West this season and forced Smith to flex her versatility. The head coach had moved her from guard to the post due to her height. She’s excelled in the new role as she is currently averaging 16.5 points, 11.7 rebounds, 6.8 steals, and 2.0 blocks per game. Bryant was also Edwards’ favorite player. She says that Smith’s craftiness and ability to score anywhere on the floor is reminiscent of him.
“Kobe was an all-around player, he was a guard but could play inside with bigger players. Indya has the same presence of playing both inside and outside while being able to create and involve her teammates as well,” Edwards said.
Edwards played collegiately at San Diego Christian College then semi-professionally for the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League (now known as the Women’s Basketball Development Association). She also played overseas in Bratislava, Slovakia and has now been coaching for 10 years. She says Smith’s determination and grit is unlike any other player she’s coached.
“I’ve never had a player who wanted my help after high school. I played at the college and professional level but I want my players to go further than I went,” Edwards said. “For her to want some of the same things I’ve wanted, it makes me feel good because now I can use my resources to help her do those things and that’s what we’ve been working on.”
Smith currently has an offer from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. She hasn’t committed there because she wants to visit the campus first, especially since the school is over 2,000 miles away. She has also been in contact with several other colleges.
“I’m definitely going to continue playing this game, after high school…because of Kobe and Gigi,” she said. “I wasn’t going to quit but I’m going to work just as hard in the name of them and my dad.”
If she doesn’t get the right offer after her senior season then she plans on attending College of the Sequoias, but she won’t try out for the team during her freshman year. She’ll keep training, getting bigger and working on her game before trying out the following year. That way, she will still have three years of eligibility.
“I’m confident I could pick up an offer after that because of the player I am,” she said assuredly.
But for now, she will keep enjoying her final high school season and adding on to her all-time scoring record. She has written “#2 Gigi” on her left basketball shoe, which was Gigi’s jersey’s number at her dad’s Mamba Sports Academy. On Smith’s right shoe she has written “#24,” which is one of two jersey numbers that Kobe has retired at Staples Center.