REINBECK — The ability to create space with seemingly limitless range has allowed Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Joe Smoldt to become one of Iowa’s most prolific basketball scorers.
The 6-foot senior guard is averaging 30 points a game and enters postseason play with a career total of 2,150 points — two more than former MFL-MarMac and eventual Kansas star Raef LaFrenz for 20th on Iowa’s all-time scoring chart. A deep postseason run could easily propel the Upper Iowa signee into the state’s top 10.
Few have been able to match Smoldt’s success on game nights, and it may come as little surprise that his work ethic is second to none.
“I try to get in the gym every day,” Smoldt responded when asked how many shots he typically puts up. “Some days if it’s a lighter day it’s just about 500 to 600. Some days it’s more in the thousands range. It’s just about reps and getting as many shots up as you can to get better.”
The gym has been a second home of sorts for Smoldt and his family. He remembers tagging along when his brother Jacob, four years older, went in to work on his jump shot. Their parents, Dan and Shelli Smoldt, were former basketball players at Reinbeck High School and have passed their love of basketball on to their sons.
Even though Gladbrook-Reinbeck has made UNI-Dome runs routine on the football field, Smoldt doesn’t play a fall sport. Instead, he’ll take his parents up to the gym after school and get up shots.
“The jump shot definitely came from my mom and dad,” said Joe Smoldt, who has hit 80 of 161 3-point attempts this season. “My brother was always a good shot, too, in high school. It’s something that runs in the family, I think.
“I couldn’t do it without my parents, who have always helped rebound and give me some advice and drills.”
Gladbrook-Reinbeck coach Scott Kiburis has certainly seen plenty of examples of Smoldt’s determination to improve through the years. If a shooting drill isn’t going well for him in practice, he’ll continue to shoot after the session. Following G-R’s most recent victory, Smoldt remained in his jersey and continued to practice after the gym had cleared.
“He just practices so much,” Kiburis said. “He’s got a competitive edge, an instinct of how to play the game. He sees the game real well. He studies it, and he’s played with really good players.
“He wants to compete and be on the floor every minute. Regardless of who we’re playing or what the score is, he’s trying to win every possession.”
Smoldt looks back on Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s 28-0 state championship season as his fondest basketball memory to date. He was a sophomore who went on to captain the state tournament’s all-tournament team after being thrown hard to the ground on an aggressive foul prior to halftime.
“We were up by nine at halftime and the whole locker room was just quiet,” Kiburis recalls. “These were older players and they were worried if he could get back on the floor. His performances at the state tournament have been remarkable.”
The opportunity to win a championship in the school’s first trip to state fueled Smoldt and company.
“My teammates were there to pick me up and everybody played well that game,” Smoldt recalled. “We were in the championship game and not a lot of people get there, so I knew I had to make the most of it.”
Last season, Smoldt look on an even larger role after the graduation of a talented senior class. He helped lead the Rebels to a fourth-place finish and was once again named the all-tournament team captain at state.
In addition to Smoldt’s high scoring totals, he has 109 assists versus 49 turnovers this season. The veteran looks like he’s manipulating pieces on a chess board as he dissects a variety of defenses geared to stop him.
“He’s able to adjust and recognize where the scoring opportunities are — whether it’s scoring with jump shots from 3-point range, attacking the basket, or bringing somebody towards him where he can free up someone underneath,” Kiburis said. “He gets it. He can move players around while the game is going on and he just makes adjustments every game.”
Smoldt didn’t realize until after his coach congratulated him in the locker room that a late go-ahead shot against AGWSR on Jan. 31 marked his 2,000th career point. While he’ll play college basketball for former Wapsie Valley star Brooks McKowen, who holds Iowa’s career scoring record at 2,831, Smoldt is determined to lead Gladbrook-Reinbeck on another state tournament run.
“I was pretty excited to sign with them,” Smoldt said of Upper Iowa. “Tied for the conference title, they’re having a really historic season there. Those years after high school are going to be really exciting, but we’ve got to finish this season first.
“It’s my last high school season and I’m not ready for it to be done.