Lawrence North’s Jayla Smith Is the 2021 Indiana Miss Basketball
In Indiana, basketball is a way of life. Logos of beloved sports teams adorn the sides of barns in rural parts of the state. Families stand divided in the IU-Purdue rivalry. And each year, one deserving high school basketball player is named Indiana Miss Basketball.
Lawrence North High School senior Jayla Smith was named 2021 Indiana Miss Basketball. The shooting guard was also named to the 2021 Indiana All-Star team. The state’s coaches vote on the award.
“Coach [Chris] Giffin has coached a bunch of amazing players, so to be recognized among other great players is a very high honor,” Smith says.
At 5’11”, Smith may not be the tallest on the team, but she is the all-time leading scorer for the Wildcats.
“For me, it wasn’t about being the all-time leading scorer,” Smith says. “I was just trying to get the ball into the basket. It was more about my teammates and me winning games. I feel like they all came along with me.”
Smith started playing basketball at a young age.
“I’ve been playing organized basketball since fourth grade,” she says. “I’ve always loved the game and grew up around other family members who played as well.”
Her love of the game is coupled with a love of hard work.
“You have to have a passion for it,” Smith says. “My passion for the game is all about the hard work. To be a great player you have to work hard, over and over and over. I’m very competitive, and I love to be the best.”
After graduating this year, Smith will head to Purdue University to continue her athletic and academic career. She will be the first Indiana Miss Basketball to attend Purdue since Karissa McLaughlin from Homestead High School in Fort Wayne won the award in 2017.
“I chose Purdue number one because it’s a great school,” Smith says. “I also wanted to be close to home. I wanted my family and friends to be able to come to see me play. I know playing at the next level will be hard work, but I’m looking forward to being part of the team and showing how hard I can work. I’m also excited to learn under great coaches.”
Smith will study organizational leadership, and hopes to own her own business one day.
“I don’t know what kind of business I’d like to own just yet,” Smith says. “My dad owns his own business, so I see how hard he works and how much goes into it. I just know I want to be in a leadership role.”
While she wants to own her own business in the future, she also dreams of a future in basketball after college.
“I’ve always wanted to go pro and play professional basketball,” Smith says. “We’ll see what the future holds, but it has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl.”
Giffin has coached Smith since she was a freshman at Lawrence North.
“For Jayla to be named 2021 Indiana Miss Basketball is just unbelievable,” he says. “It’s an honor first and foremost for Jayla and her family. It’s also amazing for the school and the program. To watch Jayla grow, develop and achieve so many things individually and as part of a team is very special. To see it all culminate with her being named Miss Indiana Basketball is extremely special.”
Giffin attributes her success to her work ethic and competitive nature.
“For most athletes to be successful, they need to have competitive personalities, but Jayla has taken that competitive spirit to the next level,” he says. “She’s ultra-competitive but also a hard worker. She has an amazing passion for the game. While she is extremely competitive, she combines it with humility and hard work. She’s always thinking about the team. What makes her stand out from all the other athletes I’ve had come through this program is those three things combined.”
Smith is honored to be in the company of other talented female basketball players before her.
“It’s truly an honor,” she says. “I’m just happy to be in the same group as the previous winners. The honor could have gone to a lot of other people. I know that.”
Smith finished her time on the court at Lawrence North as a state champion, an All-State selection and a McDonald’s All-American Game nominee.
In her free time, Smith likes spending time with friends shopping and dining out.
“Basketball is nonstop, but when I see that free time, that is what I’m doing,” Smith says.
Smith will live out her Indiana basketball dream while competing at Purdue University. It appears that the Smith family knows which side their allegiance falls on, when it comes to the IU-Purdue rivalry.