G.J. Smith, former UK basketball player and Laurel schools athletics director, dies at age 59

jkegley@herald-leader.comAugust 18, 2012 

Former Kentucky basketball player G.J. Smith.

G.J. Smith, a former University of Kentucky men's basketball player and longtime high school coach and athletics director in Laurel County, died Friday of a heart attack. He was 59.

As a forward for the Wildcats, Mr. Smith played in 49 games over three seasons from 1972 to 1975. He averaged 3 points a game.

UK fans who remember Mr. Smith's tenure might also remember longtime UK announcer Cawood Ledford's call, "G.J. from the corner!" Ledford's description of where Mr. Smith took most of his shots became something of a catchphrase within the Big Blue Nation.

Following his graduation from UK, Mr. Smith became a teacher, baseball coach and basketball coach. Later, he was athletics director for the Laurel County schools, where he had played baseball and basketball in high school.

In 1997, Mr. Smith was inducted into the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Several colleagues nominated Mr. Smith to the Dawahares/Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2009. His nominators noted his dedication to education as well as athletics.

His wife, Judy Smith, said one of her husband's greatest points of pride was serving as athletics director while his two sons, Cameron and Trey, became the third generation of Smiths to play in Kentucky's Sweet Sixteen tournament.

Mr. Smith's father, the late Charles Smith, played on a state championship team in the 1940s, she said.

Mr. Smith retired as athletics director at South Laurel High School in 2008.

He is survived by his wife, his two sons and his sister, Charlie Jean Mack. He was preceded in death by his parents, Charles and Muriel Smith.

House-Rawlings Funeral Home, 510 East Fourth Street in London, is handling funeral arrangements. Arrangements had not been completed Saturday night.

Judy Smith said the family expects to hold a visitation Monday night and the funeral Tuesday. She asked that friends and family visit the funeral home's Web site, HouseRawlings.com, for updated information.

Josh Kegley: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLPublicSafety.

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