Success & Impact

2020 Graduate Finds Success on and off the Court

by Gabrielle Lacherza

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Greg Smith ’20 plays against Big 5 rival Temple last season.

Greg Smith’s lifelong childhood dream was to play Division I college men’s basketball. “Basketball is in my DNA,” Smith ‘20 says.

Smith, whose father played for Seton Hall University, has been playing basketball for as long as he can remember. He grew up with a deep passion and love for the game and went on to become a standout high school player at Rutgers Prep.  

After a successful high school career, Smith wasn’t receiving the college offers he had hoped for. “I didn’t want to give up on my goals and made the decision to look at schools where I could potentially be a walk-on candidate,” Smith explains.

Smith’s sister was attending Saint Joseph’s University, so he was familiar with the campus and the Jesuit educational tradition. “Saint Joseph’s had everything I was looking for in a school and provided a nice sense of familiarity,” he says. 

During his freshman year on Hawk Hill, Smith prepared to try out for the reigning A-10 champions. He made it to the practice round of tryouts, but ultimately fell short of making the team.

“This was the first year of my life that I wasn’t playing basketball. It was a big adjustment for me and motivated me to work even harder,” he says.

After his freshman year, Smith made the decision to transfer to Rutgers University, in hopes of walking on to their men’s basketball program. The school was also closer in proximately to his hometown of Flemington, N.J.  

He spent the fall semester of his sophomore year on Rutgers’ New Brunswick campus adjusting to a new environment and training for their team’s tryouts. But again, he did not make the final roster. That only added fuel to his fire.

After much reflection and consideration, Smith decided to transfer back to Saint Joseph’s and returned to Hawk Hill the spring semester of his sophomore year.

“Saint Joseph’s doesn’t feel like just a college campus, it feels like a family and I knew that’s where I wanted to be with or without basketball,” Smith says.

As a junior, Smith tried out once more for the Hawks and ultimately accomplished his lifelong dream. He made the team for the 2018-2019 season. “It was one of the highlights of my life because my dream came true and the process showed me what it truly means to never give up,” he says.

Saint Joseph’s doesn’t feel like just a college campus, it feels like a family and I knew that’s where I wanted to be with or without basketball."

Greg Smith '20

Through the basketball ups and downs, Smith remained level-headed and on top of his academic career. Smith, a finance major, met with Todd Krug, Ph.D., director of the Erivan K. Haub School of Business co-op program, and shared his career aspirations and interests in the world of banking. Krug helped him search for co-op opportunities and introduced him to former students working at Barclays.

“Greg navigated the internship process as perfectly as anyone I have ever worked with. He was clear about his career goals, he met with me several times to prepare for his interview, he followed-up on every recommendation I made, and he networked professionally with my co-op alum at Barclays,” Krug says. “Greg is one of those remarkable students who blends all of the best characteristics employers seek. He brings excellence to everything he does.”

After his first season as a Division I basketball player, Smith received the news that he had landed a summer internship at Barclays New York City office. “It felt like all of my hard work and determination was finally paying off. All of my professors and advisors wanted to see me succeed,” he recalls.

Smith worked hard all summer and at the end of the competitive internship program, he accepted an offer for a full-time position for after graduation.

Smith ’20 (center) outside the Barclays New York City office with his parents.
Smith (center) with his parents outside Barclays' New York City office. 

Smith entered his senior year excited for his new beginnings – one of those beginnings was a new coaching staff for the men’s basketball program. He made the team for a second year in a row, and stepped into a role on the roster as a senior leader.

“I viewed my role on the team this year as a senior leader, and tried my best to help mentor my younger teammates and show them how to persevere through life’s adversity.” Smith appeared in 22 games for the season.

“Greg was a first-class leader for our program this season. His personal growth was evident and inspirational for his teammates and coaches as the season progressed,” says Head Coach Billy Lange. “He had a unique journey on Hawk Hill and takes the THWND spirit with him as he embarks on his career and personal ambitions.”

Throughout his senior year, Smith has been working on a book with his father about his journey as a basketball player and the valuable life lessons the game has taught him along the way. He hopes to release the book before the end of the year.  

“I want to be an inspiration for the younger generation and encourage them to accomplish their dreams.”