Madisonville native and 2017 MHS graduate Tra’dayja Smith was awarded Trinity Valley Community College’s Presidential Award at the school’s graduation ceremony last week in Athens.
The award was presented to Smith by Dr. Jerry King, the school’s president, and came as a complete shock to her in the moment. She was one of just two TVCC students to receive the Presidential Award at graduation. It is based on character, how she interacts with others and how she helps give back to others.
According to Coach Gerald Ewing of the Trinity Valley women’s basketball team, Smith is the only athlete to ever receive the honor of the Presidential Award that he can remember. Her time at TVCC also earned her an outstanding athlete of the month award.
“One of the faculty members said that her small acts of kindness, maturity, hard work, passion and selflessness had a huge impact on others around her,” said Dr. King during the presentation to Smith in front of her graduating peers. “She made (TVCC) a better place and a brighter place while she was here. She was a leader on and off of the basketball court and we really enjoyed watching her play.”
The good news for Dr. King, and everyone who enjoyed watching Smith’s game, is that her basketball career is not over yet. The local Madisonville girl who learned the game in small town Texas and perfected it at Trinity Valley will soon take her talents east to Longwood University in Virginia.
“My time in Madisonville meant a lot to me because you get a lot of support when you come from a small town,” said Smith. “(MHS women’s basketball Coach Shana Taylor) made me a better player because she stayed on me and pushed me to be the player I am today.”
“Coaching Tra’dayja was an awesome and memorable experience,” said Taylor. “Her personality is magnetic. I do not think I remember her ever having a bad day. I still believe she has more to offer but watching her play in college, she has developed into a more commanding floor leader. There are many people who are proud of her because she is special but none are more proud than I am to have had the opportunity to coach her. She will continue to thrive as she leads her new team at Longwood.”
She also gathered the tools she will need to succeed at the high level of competition. In her two years at Trinity Valley, the point guard helped lead her team to the Junior College Championship as well as the Final Four.
In her second season, Smith facilitated an impressive offensive attack for the Cardinals with nearly six assists per game and 196 overall. She also led the team with 53 steals and was second in minutes played.
“As we progressed in the postseason, competition also increased,” said Smith. “These deep runs exposed me to more competition just as I expect to experience at Longwood. Collegiate play has made me a better decision maker on offense and guarding more talented women has made me a better defender.”
Before her move to Virginia, Smith can now also cross Presidential Award winner off of her list of many accomplishments. Her background and life in Madisonville will continue to be a beacon of support as she advances further in her basketball career.
Smith was essentially raised by her great-grandparents Charles Samuel and the late Wilma Samuels. Charles followed her to as many games as he could during her time at TVCC. Wilma passed away in 2016 and did not get to see her graduate high school or college, so Smith visited her grave donned in her cap and gown.
But she has many family members to thank for her journey, including her mother Charlanette Samuels Johnson, father Travis Smith, step-father Corey Johnson, grandparents Charlie and Lori Sims and and Alice Turner, and sisters Tra’Shayla and Kailey.