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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Choo Smith: CIAA tourney will make lasting impact on youth

Charles “Choo” Smith, a highly esteemed community leader deeply rooted in the local sports arena, had his collegiate basketball beginnings in the CIAA and is delighted the tournament is returning to his beloved Baltimore this year.

After a stellar career at City College, Smith went to Bowie State and started as a point guard for its basketball program. He was in Bowie for his freshman year before transferring to the University of the District of Columbia for the remaining three.

The West Baltimore native went on to star for the globally recognized Harlem Globetrotters from 1999 to 2002. Though he was there for only one year, Smith said he enjoyed his time at Bowie State and was surrounded by a solid group of teammates.

Smith, 51, sees the tournament as a “tremendous vehicle” for the city and thinks it will be an enormous success.

“I think it’s going to bring some continuity for us as people who are basketball lovers,” Smith said. “It’s going to bring the city revenue, and then it also brings some exposure to young people because you can go to an Black historical college and still do well, and still have a good experience, and have opportunities to play high-level basketball.”

Following his retirement from the Globetrotters, Smith remained immersed in the community and partnered with numerous basketball leagues and initiatives particularly focusing on youth development.

For the past 15 years, he has run the Choo Smith Youth Empowerment, Inc. (CSYE), a non-profit organization that primarily focuses on increasing opportunities for the success of youth in Baltimore through providing services and programs, which yield personal development.

CSYE serves as a platform for an array of other initiatives that foster training and mentorship tools for young people to reach their absolute maximum potential. 

As a product of the inner city, Smith knows how vital a role sports can play in one’s personal and professional development. The upcoming CIAA Basketball Tournament will be a possible game changer for the youngsters in attendance, giving them much-needed exposure to HBCU excellence, educational opportunities and valuable life lessons through sports, according to Smith. 

“Sports and life lessons are the key to the mind and the heart of a young person,” Smith said. “When you have people who learn how to handle adversity, you have young people who learn to be a part of a team, you learn leadership, how to make other people better, work ethic, discipline and just being able to have the internal fortitude to push through any situation.”

A number of youth who matriculated through Smith’s CSYE program have gone on to attend CIAA schools— from Bowie State, to Virginia Union, to Shaw and others. Smith, who recently announced the colossal Arise Baltimore Development project, said he plans to attend the tournament and some related events next week

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