Main content

Son of a gun Archie Smith gives hoop dreams the drop punt

Draft prospect: Archie Smith Watch potential 2013 drafteeArchie Smithin action
Archie Smith of Queensland in action during the 2013 NAB AFL U18 Championship match between NSW/ACT and Queensland at Visy Park on June 29, 2013. (Photo: Lachlan Cunningham/AFL Media)
Archie Smith's natural athleticism has already proven well-suited to the demands of Australian football
People thought I was an idiot. It's not until now that I'm a Lion that people are sending me texts saying I've made the right decision
Lions rookie Archie Smith
ARCHIE Smith has just finished his first full training session with the Brisbane Lions.

He's done two-and-a-half hours of running, conditioning, ball work and finished off with some hard efforts on the exercise bike. He's the last player to finish.

After a 10-minute cool down the Lions rookie comes over to chat, still dripping with sweat, but composed enough to recount his amazing story of the past 12 months.

Smith is the 18-year-old son of former NBA player and NBL legend Andre Moore, and seemed destined to blaze his own trail in the basketball world.

Just last year he was in an Australian national team squad, going overseas to play in camps against the best in the world, and was being courted by eight Division One colleges in the US.

But with a little nudge from the Brisbane Lions Academy, some natural gifts of his own, and an appetite to switch sports and succeed, that has all changed for Smith.

He is now a Lions rookie and hoping to follow in the footsteps of Dean Brogan, Kurt Tippett and Jesse White as having made the successful switch from basketball to the AFL.

It started when Lions academy coach Scott Borlace and talent identification officer Ashley Drake paid a visit to the Queensland Classics (basketball) last year.

With Australian football still far from Queensland's top sport – particularly in the school system - Drake plies his trade combing rugby and league fields, basketball courts and athletics tracks looking for talent that may convert well to the AFL.

What he and Borlace came across at those Classics was a 200cm, 17-year-old aggressive beast who loved nothing more than to dunk a basketball.

"He was aggressive and doing big dunks, and had some attitude. I said to Scott 'We need to get this kid'," Drake recalled.

But luring Smith to give the AFL a crack was not going to be easy.

Smith impressed for Queensland at the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships. Picture: AFL Media.

His private school was not interested, and it took six weeks of perseverance and building a relationship with his family to convince Smith to give the foreign code a go.

"I lived and breathed basketball. I knew every NBA player and every future NBA player for the next 10 years," Smith said.

"I knew absolutely nothing about AFL."

So Drake and the Lions rolled out the red carpet, taking Smith on a tour of the Gabba before he'd even kicked a ball.

"I was wearing joggers, pink shorts and a Michael Jordan shirt," Smith said.

"I went downstairs to the inner sanctum, I couldn't believe there was an underground. I thought 'This is ridiculous'.

"I met Vossy (then-coach Michael Voss), the entire coaching staff, Adrian Fletcher, Shane Woewodin. I had no idea who these guys were, maybe Voss.

"Then Dan Merrett came out and spoke to me and I'd seen him on TV before. He was the nicest bloke ever."

That was enough to convince Smith to do some testing and have a kick with the academy.

"I didn't even have boots so I was just wearing sneakers. They filmed me kicking and I nearly missed my foot, but I had the marking overhead thing down pat," he said.

Drake said Smith's three-seconds-flat for 20m and his 95cm vertical leap – along with the aggression – was a show of his raw athleticism.

Check out Smith's Twitter profile pic – that came from his very first ruck contest in his very first game of Australian football.

Smith tested well for a young man of 200cm at the Draft Combine. Picture: AFL Media

After his second game, he was in the Queensland under-18 team and off and running.

"I made the biggest decision of my sporting life to give basketball a rest for a year and go in 2014 to college and give AFL a go," Smith said.

"I was snubbed at basketball originally. People thought I was an idiot. It's not until now that I'm a Lion that people are sending me texts saying I've made the right decision."

He was a member of the Lions' NEAFL premiership-winning team and was on show at the Draft Combine, where he spoke to six clubs, before the Lions took him as a rookie.

Drake said things still had to be kept simple when talking footy with Smith.

"You've got to talk basketball talk. You've got to say 'Boundary throw-in is like boxing out for a rebound' [or] 'You've got to get two basketball courts behind the football'. Then he understands.

"If you say, 'Get 50m back', he'll be 80m behind the ball, then the ball's in front of him. Relate everything back to basketball and he learns quicker.

"This kid doesn’t know AFL, he doesn't know the rules. He's got an appetite to improve, but it's only just begun."

Smith agrees. Friday's training session in sweltering heat at Coorparoo was the first of many in what he hopes is a long career.

"Finally that fear of regret has passed and I can focus on being a footballer. I know college would have been amazing, but I know this is even better," he said.

"My dream my entire life was to be a professional athlete and I knew football was the best way to do it. This is just the first step.

"I love the challenge of starting at the bottom and getting to the top."

Twitter: @AFL_mikewhiting