Bob Dudley Smith is thankful for those extra hours he got shooting hoops in his friend’s backyard, not to mention some advice he received from an old coach.
“My teammate Billy Joe Adcock and I got to shoot on his basketball goal after dark on many nights because his parents installed some floodlights,” Smith said. “So we got to practice a lot longer than we ordinarily would.”
Later on, Smith was in a city parks gym when he got some pointed advice from his supervisor and future West High coach Joe Shapiro.
“[Shapiro] told me, ‘you have all the talent in the world. The only reason you won’t become a great player is if you become lazy and don’t work hard enough,’” Smith said. “I never forgot that, and I was determined to work as hard as I could.”
All of the extra work paid off. Smith became an all-state player at West in 1948 and was a member of two state championship teams (1946 and 1948) and state one runner-up (1947).
Like Adcock, he also became a standout player at Vanderbilt. Smith was a junior guard on the team that won the 1951 SEC tournament championship with a stunning upset over Kentucky. It remains Vanderbilt’s lone SEC tourney title.
Adcock became Vanderbilt’s first basketball scholarship player. Smith was the second.
On Friday night, Smith will join his lifelong friend as a Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame member. Adcock was inducted in 2002.
Smith, 80, is one of 11 inductees this year. The banquet is scheduled at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Nashville.
“I became so emotional [when I heard], so overjoyed,” he said. “It was the most wonderful feeling. Just to be considered as one of the state’s elite among this wonderful group of athletes is one of the greatest highlights of my life. I can’t express this in words.”
Smith scored a game-high 26 points in West’s 61-39 blowout of previously unbeaten Tennessee High in the 1948 state championship game in Knoxville. He scored 66 points and made 17 straight free throws in that year’s tournament, both records which stood for several years.
Following graduation, he considered a professional baseball tryout with the Boston Red Sox and later the New York Giants. Instead, he signed with Vanderbilt.
Smith became one of the best free throw and field goal shooters in Vanderbilt basketball history. He made 23 straight free throws in 1950-51 (a school and SEC record at the time) and once made 96 consecutive free throws in practice.
When Vanderbilt selected its top 100 athletes of the century, Smith was ranked 87th overall and 28th in basketball.
Later, he became an accomplished tennis player. He won numerous Southern Senior championships, was ranked No. 1 in doubles in Tennessee and No. 6 in the South in 1986. He began to compete internationally and reached the quarterfinals of the World Championships in 2004.
As for his induction speech, Smith said, “I have to limit it to three minutes. It will be hard, but I’ve already practiced it and I’ve got it down to three and a half minutes.”
Sadly, his close friend and backyard hoops companion, Adcock, who lives in St. Louis, won’t be able to join Smith for his special night.
“I invited him,” Smith said. “I got an e-mail back, telling me he took a hard fall on the ice outside of his home. Doctors suggested he not travel due to the injury.”
The rest of this year’s inductees:
• Tom Henderson (posthumous): Earned nine varsity letters at Vanderbilt (1929-33) and was captain of the football and baseball teams and played quarterback for the late coach Dan McGugin. Named to the Silver Anniversary All-American team by Sports Illustrated in 1957.
• Elizabeth Henderson: Was an All-American on each of Tennessee-Chattanooga’s three straight AIAW national championship tennis teams. Later became coach at several colleges, including Tennessee.
• Don Meyer: College basketball’s all-time leader in wins (923). He coached at Lipscomb for 24 years and won one NAIA title (1986) before he went on to coach at Northern State (S.D.) Named NAIA national coach of the year (1989, 1990).
• Jack Eaton: Was “Voice of the Tigers’’ for University of Memphis, broadcasting their games from 1959-87 (basketball) and 1964-86 (football).
• John Hudson: All-state lineman at Henry County before signing with Auburn where he was a starter at center (1986-89). Spent 10 years in the NFL and was a member of Baltimore’s Super Bowl XXXV championship team.
• Tim Irwin: Following an All-SEC season at Tennessee, he played 14 years in the NFL as an offensive lineman.
• Barbara Jones-Slater: A former Tennessee State Tigerbelle, she became the youngest woman to win an Olympic gold medal in track and field in 1952 at age 15. She and teammates won the 4x100 relay in both 1952 and in 1960.
• Marynell Meadors: Ex-Hillsboro star later became basketball coach at Tennessee Tech where she compiled a 363-138 record before coaching at Florida State for 10 seasons and is currently the coach and GM of WNBA Atlanta Dream.
• Jackie Walker (posthumous): Football, basketball and baseball standout at Fulton High, then became the first African-American student from Knoxville to receive a sports scholarship in the SEC when he signed with Tennessee. A three-year starter at linebacker for UT, was named All-American his final two seasons.
• Bill Battle (Lifetime Achievement Inductee): Was a member of Alabama 1961 national championship team, then became head coach at Tennessee where his teams went 59-22-2 from 1970-76. Founded Battle Enterprises, later became Collegiate Licensing Company, dedicated to providing domestic and international licensing services to college market.
Hall of Fame Ceremony
Friday, 6:30 p.m.