Rivals in multiple sports since junior high, Verlis Smith and Yoshi Kumar relished the opportunity to team up for the first time this past month.
Smith (Ceres High), Kumar (Central Valley) and the North Team topped the South Team while participating in the First Annual 209 Students With Aspiring Goals (SWAG) Senior Showcase All-Star Basketball Game on May 14 at Atwater High School.
Smith and Kumar attended Chavez and Blaker-Kinser junior highs, respectively.
“Every year, we’ve played against each other in something,” Smith said. “We finally got to play together. It was pretty cool. One thing I like about Yoshi is he’s going to give 100 percent every play. His work ethic is outstanding. That’s something I admire about him.”
“It was an honor to play with Verlis,” Kumar said. “It was really fun. Our intensity was the same. We both love to play defense. Verlis has done a lot. He put the small town of Ceres on the map. That’s one of the reasons why I have a lot of respect for him.”
“I didn’t know how far Verlis and Yoshi went back until picture day,” said T.J. Walker Jr., SWAG North coach and leader of Ceres High’s boys basketball program. “I made sure they were on the court together. They had fun.”
Smith earned 12 varsity letters during his success-filled sports career at Ceres High, including four in basketball, three in football and volleyball, and two in track and field.
He was an all-league performer in basketball, football and track and field this school year.
“I’m glad I played as much sports as I did,” Smith said. “I loved it. You learn different things. I became a better athlete. I have a lot of good memories.”
Smith was voted Most Valuable Player of the Western Athletic Conference during his final season of basketball.
The standout forward/guard averaged 18.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game for the Bulldogs, who compiled a 17-11 record, placed fourth in the WAC standings and fell one win short of advancing to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
“The other coaches saw what Verlis did for us every night,” Walker said. “I felt like he was the best player in the league. He was dynamic in what he did on both sides of the ball. He played so hard. The other guys followed him.”
Smith was selected to the WAC First Team this past fall for starring in football.
A standout receiver, Smith caught 36 passes for 775 yards and 14 touchdowns.
He also logged playing time at running back, quarterback and defensive back.
Smith rushed for 277 yards and four TDs on 35 carries.
He completed 5 of 13 passes for 117 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
He totaled 19 tackles, three interceptions, one of which was returned 100 yards for a score, and three pass deflections at cornerback for Ceres High, which amassed a 5-6 overall record, finished fifth in the WAC standings and advanced to the section playoffs for the first time since 2004.
Smith earned four all-WAC patches for his dominance in track and field during the springtime.
He placed first in the long jump and 100, and second in the 200 at the league finals. Smith also ran the anchor leg on the Bulldogs’ runner-up 4x100 relay team. Ceres High finished third in the standings.
A first-team, WAC South honoree in volleyball as a junior, Smith did not play the sport this year because he wanted to lessen his workload.
Kumar earned five varsity letters at Central Valley, including three in basketball and two in volleyball.
“He’s one of the hardest-working athletes that I’ve ever coached,” Hawks’ boys hoops leader Mike Rodriguez said. “He’s so unselfish. He tries to get others involved. He’s a good role model for the younger kids. That’s the type of person he is.”
Kumar was named to the Central California Conference Sportsmanship Team in boys basketball this past winter.
He averaged 7.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game while contributing at point guard for the first time for the Hawks, who finished 8-20 and last in the CCC standings.
“Yoshi was up for the challenge,” Rodriguez said. “He did a really good job.”
An outside hitter in volleyball, Kumar garnered first-team all-CCC recognition as a senior and freshman. Central Valley didn’t field teams his junior and sophomore years due to a lack of interest.
Kumar totaled 288 kills, 170 digs, 31 aces, 18 assists and 11 blocks as the Hawks posted a program-best 10-10 overall record and placed sixth in the 2022 CCC standings.
“Sports made me the person I am today,” Kumar said. “I’m really grateful. I wanted to build up our programs. I met my friends through sports. My coaches were life teachers for me.”
Powers represents CV
Jordan Powers represented Central Valley in the SWAG Senior Showcase All-Star Basketball Game this past month in Atwater, along with Hawk teammate Yoshi Kumar.
The standout forward/guard averaged 15.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game during his final season with the Hawks.
Powers earned second-team, all-CCC honors.
He had career averages of 13.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals.