Spotlight on Ohlone:
Ohlone College student Carlos Smothers soaring onto a national stage in Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown

By Carl Steward.

Friday, February 12, 2010—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area: The Oakland Tribune.

February 16, 2010 update from Ohlone College: Carlos "Los" Smothers finishes second in the Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown - Congratulations!

Carlos Smothers at the 2010 Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown (screenshot from NBA video on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fayiZbe992A.

In a development that is long overdue, NBA All-Star Weekend is opening its dunk competition to the masses. For the first time, high-flying regular joes will have their own dunk event alongside the pros today.

The timing is certainly right for Union City's Carlos Smothers, who was one of four men selected in a nationwide search—and the only one picked straight from his online video entry—to compete in the inaugural Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown.

The event will immediately precede the NBA players' dunk contest and will be shown on NBA.TV at 3 p.m.

The 21-year-old Smothers, a James Logan High grad now attending Ohlone College, has won some local dunk contests in recent years but admitted he still can't fathom what it will be like dunking at the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

"I've been in competitions before, but nothing of this magnitude with something like 100,000 people projected to be there," said Smothers. "It's like, 'Wow.'"

Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown video on YouTube.
(Video is not captioned; no transcript.)

As if the venue doesn't provide enough pressure, Smothers and the other three finalists will be judged by LeBron James, former NBA power-dunk specialist Darryl Dawkins and underground hip-hop star Drake, with the winner to receive $10,000.

While contestants in eight cities from around the country—including San Francisco—were slamming head-to-head in recent months trying to be one of eight regional finalists, Smothers simply submitted an online video put together by some friends at BallIsLife.com. The video, with some of his dynamic dunks, propelled Los—his dunk moniker—into the semifinals.

Online voters then swept him into the finals over the past few weeks, perhaps checking out a number of his other dunking videos on YouTube.

"I didn't think I really had a chance, but I told a lot of my friends to vote for me," he said. "I guess it paid off."

Smothers played basketball as a freshman and sophomore at James Logan, but he bypassed his final two seasons because he said he didn't get along with the varsity coach. He hasn't played any college ball, but maintains he's still looking for a shot and believes he's worthy. At present, he plays in an adult league and gets in his share of streetball.

"I think I'm actually a better basketball player than I am a dunker," he said. "I just do it because I can do it, but I'd rather play basketball on a team any day."

Smothers started dunking in the eighth grade as a 13-year-old and realized he had a talent for it, getting high above the rim even though he wasn't that tall. Even now, he barely stands 6-foot-1.

"I don't work out with my legs or nothing," he said. "It's all natural ability."

Smothers' signature dunk is a 360-degree throwdown between the legs off two feet. Many of the best dunkers can perform that, but Smothers can go between the legs with either hand. He'll have a dozen or so other possibilities to choose from during today's finals.

He confessed that he and two other competitors—one from Los Angeles, one from North Carolina—are probably underdogs against Taurian "Air Up There" Fontenette from Hitchcock, Texas, who will not only be the local favorite but is the only dunker in history who has a documented 720-degree dunk on tape. That's right, two full body turns in the air before the slam.

"He's one of the best dunkers in the world," Smothers said. "So I'm just going to do what I do best, which is have fun, do my best dunks and hopefully I'll come out victorious. Maybe he (Fontenette) will sprain an ankle and miss all of his."

If nothing else, his five-day trip to the Dallas area is all-expenses paid, not only for him but his best friend, and they'll have choice seats for Sunday's All-Star Game.

Smothers is a die-hard Warriors fan who is still upset Monta Ellis didn't make the all-star squad. He was equally steamed when Baron Davis and Jason Richardson weren't picked in recent years, particularly Richardson, who once gave Smothers dunking tips at a basketball camp.

"I think the NBA has something against the Warriors," he said. "I guess with our record, we can't complain, but I'm still mad."

A winning dunk and a photo with LeBron would do much to ease his anger, he said. Maybe just the photo.

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