A monster Class 4A state boys basketball tournament lifted 6-foot-9 Kentwood center Joshua Smith to Seattle Times State Male Player of the Year honors for 2009-10

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COVINGTON — Joshua Smith got the chance to throw his arms up toward the ceiling in celebration one more time.

However, instead of commemorating Kentwood’s Class 4A state championship, he was cheering the really big ring he had just helped his teammates pick out.

“Whoooo,” he shouted after the Conquerors picked a design.

When it came time to select their 2010 championship rings, Kentwood players wanted something that summed up their season. They wanted something with so much ice they would feel chills every time they put it on. They wanted something larger than life, as big as their 6-foot-9 senior center.

It has been more than a week since the Conquerors beat Jackson for the title and, for Smith, The Seattle Times’ Male State High School Player of the Year, the accomplishment is just now starting to sink in.

“It’s pretty good,” he said with a smile.

When the championship game ended, Smith wasn’t sure what to do. He wanted to hug his mother. He wanted to climb over the fence into the stands to celebrate with Kentwood students. He wanted to take off his jersey and run around the floor.

Instead, he was tackled by teammates.

There was a time this year when Smith wondered if he would end the season on the sideline watching instead of on the court winning. He missed 10 games with a torn patellar tendon in his knee before playing some of the best basketball of his career at the Tacoma Dome.

“This year I just wanted to leave it all out there,” Smith said. “It didn’t go as planned, but I think that was a blessing in disguise. When I came back, I wanted to make sure that I was getting back to the team, not them changing what they were doing for me.”

He finished the tournament averaging 23.2 points and 15 rebounds. But he also had 17 assists, more than any player in the tournament.

“He’s very unselfish,” Kentwood coach Michael Angelidis said. “He’s a very good passer. When he goes to college, I think he will really distinguish himself from other big guys.”

Opponents throughout the tournament were impressed by Smith’s dominance. After a season filled with criticism, Smith let his game answer any questions.

“It doesn’t really bother me,” he said of his critics. “They can say whatever they want to say. We’re state champs. They can’t take that away. It just felt good to accomplish that.”

During the Pac-10 tournament, Smith started to think about his freshman year at UCLA. But thoughts of the future were quickly clouded with the memories of everything he had just accomplished. He’s having too much fun right now to look too far ahead.

“He’s just one of the guys,” Angelidis said. “There’s no pretense about him. He just wants to be one of the guys.”

Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or mkelley@seattletimes.com