YSU record is family & team accomplishment for Smolinski

Special to Tribune Chronicle / Robert Hayes Alison Smolinski began developing her shooting skills in the driveway of her North Royalton home.

YOUNGSTOWN — Robert Smolinski looked out at his North Royalton driveway years ago and decided he had to intervene. He had to help his third-grade daughter Alison.

She was shooting the ball with two hands, heaving it toward the basket with all the power her little frame could muster. Alison had often watched her older brother, Tyler, practicing and later playing for the North Royalton Bears’ varsity team. She tried to emulate Tyler’s moves, even while she was at the local YMCA or out in the driveway.

Robert told her to move closer to the basket, and to put one hand behind the ball and another on the side. As she got stronger and older, Alison’s range grew from the driveway to the hardwood.

“When I was younger, I shot in the backyard with my dad over and over again,” Alison said. “My shots started pretty bad actually.”

On Saturday, she became Youngstown State University’s all-time, 3-point shooter with 211.

“That’s kind of what we did. I’ll take a little bit of credit for it,” Robert said.

Alison developed her 3-point shot as an eighth-grader and the North Royalton varsity coaches took notice. She was a four-year starter for the Bears, setting school records for 3-pointers in a career (200), season (79) and game (six).

Alison was the Northeast Lakes District Player of the Year in Division I as she amassed 1,269 points and led her team to a 25-2 mark as a senior.

YSU coach John Barnes had Alison and her family attend a January 2014 game as the Penguins beat Green Bay for the first of two times that season — Barnes’ first year at YSU.

Smolinski was offered a scholarship as a high school junior, making a verbal commitment about a week later.

Alison later became a Penguin legend behind the 3-point line.

“As you know coach Barnes recruits a lot of 3-point shooters,” Alison said. “That’s our coaches instilling that confidence into us.”

She is a special education major and will graduate in 2020 after spending a year as a student teacher.

Alison has always shied away from the spotlight, just like her teammates. It’s about her team, just like it was at North Royalton, where she averaged 15 points a game. Her coach enforced teamwork and distribution, something she does at YSU.

That’s why after Saturday’s game, her teammates not only celebrated the win, but Alison’s accomplishment.

“That’s what makes it so fun,” Barnes said. “They’re all into it. They’re all playing hard, having a good time. I went into the locker room. Before in the hall, I heard them outside in the hall cheering and dancing. That makes it really fun.”

It started in the driveway in North Royalton, trying to shoot a 3-point shot.