Study some of the most successful athletes in the world and you will notice many common traits: perseverance through adversity, hunger for improvement, etc. Even for the average human being, while success does not always have a clear equation, continuing to learn, being teachable, and implementing gained knowledge are crucial components towards becoming better in any aspect of life.
One individual that holds this mindset is Haywood Highsmith, affectionately referred to as one of the most intriguing players in the G League by Keith Pompey of The Inquirer (Philadelphia). Highsmith most recently signed a two-way contract with the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday afternoon, in between playing an afternoon game for the Blue Coats and an NBA game against the Washington Wizards that same night.
At 6-foot-7, Highsmith is an outstanding athlete. He provides good energy on the court, rebounds the ball very well, and most of all, has a tireless work ethic, something Danny Sancomb is rather familiar with.
Sancomb, now the head coach at California University of Pennsylvania, was working at Wheeling Jesuit University while Highsmith was a student athlete in his program, and provided insight on just the type of individual he is.
“He’s the furthest thing from a 9-5 guy,” Sancomb says. “He’ll be there (in the gym) early and stay there late, and it’s paying dividends.”
Coach Sancomb first watched Highsmith play at an AAU tournament in Indianapolis, where he remembers telling one of his assistants that if they could just put some muscle on him, Highsmith was going to become a very good player.
“He was this skinny, versatile player.” Sancomb recalls. “He was just weak at that point, but he had a good skill set. He could get rebounds and push the ball…he just was not physically developed yet.”
Development came little by little each year. When coaches would point out room for improvement in his game, Highsmith would take it to heart and work even harder on that particular skill.
Whether Coach Sancomb was implementing a new play or giving clear instruction for a screen, Highsmith would absorb the information and immediately apply it to his game.
By the time he was a senior, Highsmith had not only developed physically, but he was averaging 22 points per game and shooting 40.5 percent on 3-pointers. The improvements in his game earned him the MEC Player of the Year award, as well as a place on the NABC Division-II All-American team.
And beyond the accolades, Sancomb notes that Highsmith is a upstanding individual.
“He’s a great kid. I can’t say that enough,” Sancomb said. “He was so fun to coach, naturally because he was great for us, but he just brought ‘it’ every single day.”
And his ego? Always in check, coach says, always remaining humble while continuing to strive for more success and improvement.
All in all, Highsmith brings a very positive vibe to the Sixers. Given the nature of the two-way contract, Highsmith won’t be with the team regularly, but this likely won’t be the last time you hear his name.
Per Sancomb, “I promise you he’s only going to get better.”