COQUILLE — Ean Smith was an all-star fullback and linebacker on a Coquille football team that won three straight league titles, but his dream for college always revolved around basketball.
The soon-to-be Coquille graduate will get a chance to pursue that dream after signing a letter of intent to play for Umpqua Community College starting in the fall.
“The goal was to try and get on the basketball court at the next level,” he said. “The opportunity came up for me. I decided to take a chance.”
Smith also had a successful basketball career for the Red Devils, including this year being the Sunset Conference defensive player of the year and a second-team all-state selection for Class 2A.
Those honors paled in comparison to what Smith and his teammates did when they got Coquille to the state tournament for the first time since 2003.
“We had talked about it — we had dreamed about it,” he said. “You’ve got a 17-year curse on your back. You’ve got to give it your all.
“That’s something I’m never going to forget — that little two-week spurt right there.”
Coquille was in the playoffs all of his years in basketball, but it wasn’t until this year the Red Devils broke through winning the game to get to the tournament.
Now Smith is going to another successful team.
“It’s a great program,” he said of the Riverhawks. “I like the way they play. They get up and down (the court). They get after it.
“It’s a winning program.”
This year, Umpqua finished second in the NWAC South Region and finished 25-4 overall. The Riverhawks were set for the NWAC tournament before the event was canceled.
“They want to keep bringing in guys that want to win,” Smith said. “I love that.”
He also loves that he will have to compete for playing time.
“They needed a couple more guys that are ready to go in and work hard,” he said. “They brought in a lot of good guards. I have to go in and earn all the time I can.
“They want a guy who will go in, work hard and put up the effort for it. I’m all about that.”
Smith hasn’t decided on his eventual future educational degree — he’s looking at two very different potential career paths — but said he expects to get a lot of his prerequisite work done at Umpqua before transferring to a four-year school.
By that time, he should know whether he wants to pursue elementary education or pediatric nursing.
“I’m kind of up in the air about it,” he said of the two possible areas to study.
For now, he’s trying to make the best of an inability to finish his high school career the conventional way, as well as the inability to hit the basketball court with his friends.
“I’m just trying to stay in shape,” he said. “I’m lifting some weight, getting the ball in my hands, running, and getting my conditioning down."
He leaves Coquille as a well-decorated athlete including being first-team all-league in football on both offense and defense as a senior and defense as a junior and being second-team all-league in basketball as a junior. He was a third-team all-state pick for both offense and defense in football last fall.
Along the way, Coquille had extensive success in both sports.
“It’s definitely something we will remember for a long time,” he said.