Aiden Smalls gets first experience at NC State
Aiden Smalls pumped in 17 points last Wednesday for Raleigh Cardinals Gibbons at NC State’s team camp, and then threw a few passes as the Crusaders back-up quarterback at the Wolfpack’s 7-on-7 event Thursday.
That is the hectic dynamic of being a talented point guard and quarterback in the class of 2026. Smalls then returned to the basketball court with Cardinal Gibbons at the NCHSAA event in Bermuda Run, N.C., playing in front of college coaches.
In football, he participated in the Rivals Camp Series Combine in mid-March in Fort Mill, S.C. He checked in at 5-foot-11 and 161.5 pounds with 4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Cardinal Gibbons won the NCHSAA 4A state title last year.
“I’ve been practicing every day [in football],” Smalls said. “I’ll be good, just working out every day and throwing. They are all humble.”
Smalls knows it’s a big job going from playing in an eighth grade basketball game to playing at historic Reynolds Coliseum or Dail practice facility. He even had NC State star sophomore guard Terquavion Smith watching his game.
“It’s a good environment coming up from middle school, but it’s a lot different,” Smalls said. “I did notice Baby T. That’s a good feeling.”
Smalls has been playing this offseason on a talented Team Loaded VA 15s squad on the adidas circuit. He plays with Southern Durham (N.C.) High sophomore wing Jackson Keith and Raleigh Millbrook sophomore forward Colt Langdon. Team Loaded VA 15s will be playing in Rock Hill, S.C., and in the Los Angeles area in July.
“That has been good playing along good players,” Smalls said. “They are just like the best players and are younger. I’m learning from them.
“Jackson is really encouraging, really the whole team. It’s been good play with him.”
Smalls is also learning how to create his own role. He might not play every minute or be needed to score a lot of points. To that end, it’s been an adjustment playing with older players.
“Middle school, it isn’t really realistic [basketball], being bigger,” Smalls said. “I’m playing that guard role against bigger people and better competition. It’s better than scoring 40 points a game.”
Smalls wasn’t allowed by his eighth grade coach to dunk in a game until the season finale, and he’s still searching for that first in-game dunk this spring and summer, but it’s coming.
“I always have wanted to get up there [to dunk],” Smalls said. “I haven’t gotten an in-game dunk yet, but just warmups. That’s a pretty big goal.”
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