THE KEENE STATE COLLEGE MAGAZINE FOR ALUMNI AND FRIENDS VOLUME XXIV NUMBER 2 WINTER 2008
  
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Jamie Smith Finds "Hardwood Heaven"
This KSC basketball star meets Bill Walton and finds professional success in California.

Jamie Smith: why it pays to spend time on the basketball court.
Like many Keene State basketball alums, Jamie Smith '99 wasn't quite ready to give up the game once his Owl playing days were over. A hard-nosed forward who beat opponents with toughness and intelligence during his four-year (1996-99) KSC career, Smith missed that adrenaline rush that comes from beating someone down low or going in for an uncontested layup.

Little did he know that his basketball skills and court tenacity would lead to a meeting with one of the all-time greats in the sport – Bill Walton.

Smith, originally from Colchester, Vermont, always could find a game, whether his job took him to the Cape, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, or San Diego, the place he's called home the past eight years.

" When I came out to San Diego, I didn't know anyone and just started meeting people playing basketball," Smith said. One of the players turned out to be a former Keene State teammate, Jeff Matuszko '99, who got him involved in a men's league that also included another teammate, Ryan Hooper, as well as former Little East foes Adam DeChristopher from Plymouth State and Mike Haynes, who played ball at UMass Boston. " The Little East lives on in San Diego," said Smith.

A little heavier than in his KSC playing days, but fundamentally sound, Smith could still get up and down the court and make his presence felt in league play.

And it never hurts to be lucky. Smith caught the eye of a friend of Walton, who was scouting around for former college players to appear in an instructional video for www.sportsskool.com. Smith and six other players from the league were invited to meet Walton and work on the video.

Smith said the two-day session was like being in " hardwood heaven." While Walton, a free spirit whose nicknames included the " big redhead" and " mountain man" during his playing days at UCLA and later with the NBA Portland Trailblazers and Boston Celtics, explained his philosophy on different facets of the game, the players, including Smith, demonstrated the skills behind him.

Smith said the experience changed his opinion of Walton. " When I first saw him as an NBA announcer, I didn't like him," Smith said. " But once I got to know him, I found out he's a great guy, a humble guy, and a great teacher. I have a huge appreciation for him now." Smith was pleased with the final product, which can be seen at www.sportskool.com/videos/dribbling-basics. He says he gets a kick out of watching the video and hopes it helps aspiring young players learn the fundamentals of the game.

Growing up in Vermont, Smith was well schooled in the game. After briefly attending the University of Vermont, he transferred to Keene State and joined an Owl team that was making a transition from Division II to Division III play. " As tough as it was, it was also a great experience in terms of life and learning how to deal with adversity," Smith said.

" Jamie was one of the kids who paid the price," said current KSC Coach Rob Colbert, who served as an assistant during Smith's first two seasons with the Owls. " He was one of the foundation pieces for the success of the program." As a junior, Smith and his Owl teammates finally got a chance to bask in the spotlight of a winning season. The 1997-98 Keene State men's basketball team, under Coach Phil Rowe, made an auspicious debut in Division III by posting a 21-9 record and advancing to the championship game of the ECAC New England Tournament. " It was awesome," Smith said. " Suddenly the team became relevant, not only on campus, but also throughout the Keene community." While Smith, who averaged 8.9 points and 4.3 rebounds in his final season, had his share of outstanding games, his fondest memories came off the court. " I always remember how close we were as a team and the great times we had traveling to tournaments around the country," he said.

Smith, who earned a degree in occupational safety, always thought of himself as an entrepreneur – one part renegade, another part businessman – willing to go out in the world and make a name for himself. He had the foresight to get involved with the Internet and began building and selling websites during his final two years at Keene State.

Returning to his parents' summer home in Martha's Vineyard, Smith jumped into the Internet world with both feet in 1998, when he founded World Methods, an Internet marketing agency. One of his first major clients was The Black Dog, a Vineyard-based company noted for their T-shirts and accessories. He landed in San Diego in 2000 and founded Engine Ready, a leading strategic software-development firm, where he serves as chairman and CEO.

" I guess I was lucky, and the timing was right," said Smith about his successful business venture. " I was always intrigued with the potential of the web." Now busy traveling all around the country to speak at conferences and promote his company, Smith hasn't forgotten about Keene State.

Colbert said Smith has been a great West Coast ambassador for Keene State. In addition to looking out for alums and interviewing them for jobs with his company, he's not shy about taking out his checkbook and supporting the basketball program and the institution.

" It's nice to see him do so well," said Colbert. " He's really transitioned well and found a life for himself on the West Coast, and I'm proud to say he played for us."

Little did he know that his basketball skills and court tenacity would lead to a meeting with one of the all-time greats in the sport.