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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cal-Hi Sports State Junior Player of the Year: Juju Smith

Juniors: John “JuJu” Smith
(Long Beach Poly, Long Beach)
It’s surprising that since 1928 there’s only been one previous Long Beach Poly selection in this category and that was quarterback Chris Lewis in 1997.
This choice wasn’t easy, either. Smith and quarterback Robert Webber of Corona Centennial were the two juniors who were considered finalists for Mr. Football. Plus, the super-talented Adoree’ Jackson from Serra of Gardena had to be considered as well.
Smith had the advantage of being a standout on both sides of the ball. In starring for the Jackrabbits in their improbable march to the CIF Southern Section Pac-Five Division title, the 6-foot, 180-pound junior led the team in interceptions with six and was in on 51 tackles. On offense, Smith caught 49 passes for 752 yards and nine scores. He also averaged 16 yards on punt returns with one touchdown.
Jackson, named as the South Bay Daily Breeze Player of the Year and our own State Sophomore Athlete of the Year for the 2011-12 school year, may be the state’s top college prospect for the Class of 2014 and certainly dazzled in several head-turning moments in big games. But Smith should be among the nation’s top college prospects next year, too, and his numbers on both offense and defense were just frankly a lot better than Jackson’s.

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