An untimely knee injury cut short Josh Smith's 2012 sophomore season at Murfreesboro's Oakland High School.
The setback, however, did not curtail Smith's rising stock or his rather lofty ambitions. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound linebacker and younger brother of 2014 prospect Emmanuel Smith, who recently picked up a Tennessee offer among his early list of five college scholarship opportunities, remains undeterred from an MCL injury that denied him most of his sophomore season.
"It's very exciting. I want to be the best linebacker in the state my junior year and possibly in the nation," Josh Smith said. "It's exciting to be a prospect and get that recognition. I'm just very excited and motivated."
It's a friendly sibling rivalry that spurs the younger of the two standout Smith brothers to perform and work hard every day. Emmanuel has offers from Tennessee, Louisville, Oregon State and Vanderbilt in the early going, and once Josh finishes up on the hardwood for the Patriots and amps up his appearances at camps and junior days, he's expected to do the same.
There's bragging rights on the line within the household, no question.
"It's a lot [of motivation at home]. I mean I'm very competitive so I always want to beat him out, always want to one-up him," Josh Smith said. "It brings a lot of motivation knowing that he's already getting notoriety. I want to get up there with him
"Motivation-wise, I mean I push myself harder. I just set my standards really high. I love to compete. When I set goals, I'm determined to reach them."
That's obvious in Smith's work this season on the Oakland basketball team. His MCL injury suffered during football did not rob him of any portion of basketball season.
"I've been in hoops the whole season. Took me about six to eight weeks to get over the knee injury," said Josh Smith, who had commanded a starting spot at linebacker through the first part of his sophomore year before the injury. "I pushed myself hard to be back for basketball.
"What I learned from the injury is to take every down like it's my last because you never know when it can be."
Smith's aspirations of being the state's best linebacker this fall may not be far off. His best competition for the honor may come from Memphis prospect Patera Wilson. But Smith, with his combination of size, speed and instinctive play-making ability, should be in the discussion if he continues the progressive development he showed prior to his injury.
"I feel like I run well to the ball, and I fill the hole pretty well and I'm a pretty good defender in pass coverage," said Josh Smith, who credited the pass coverage to instincts. "Naturally, it just comes to me.
"I'm going to be training, getting ready for next season. Trying to get stronger, faster, work on my footwork. I'm still just trying to be the best I can be."
He's already hearing a good bit from Tennessee, and he expects to make a trip to the Vols' Knoxville home sometime this spring. He may also compete in one of the Nike Sparq camps, and he's an expected participating at the ultra-competitive In Full Motion one-day camp in Nashville in early May at Father Ryan High School.