UDC Alumnus and former Harlem Globetrotter Uses Love of Basketball to Inspire Baltimore Youth

UDC Alumnus and former Harlem Globetrotter Uses Love of Basketball to Inspire Baltimore Youth

UDC Alumnus and former Harlem Globetrotter Uses Love of Basketball to Inspire Baltimore Youth


Charles “Choo” Smith, Jr.

Growing up in the city of Baltimore, Charles “Choo” Smith, Jr., a UDC alumnus and UDC Hall of Famer in 2015, was told his height would be a limitation when playing basketball, but he didn’t let that stop him.

After being recruited to play for the UDC Firebirds as a starting point guard, Smith made a name for himself, finishing as the school’s all-time leader in steals and assists and being voted MVP. He also won the Pigskin Classic Award as “the best player” in the region and the Reslyn W. Henry Memorial Award.

Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science, Smith’s journey led him to the Original Harlem Globetrotters, where he became a high-profile member of the team, playing in all 50 states, in 26 countries, and was recognized as one of the greatest dribblers in the world.

When asked why he never played for the NBA, Smith said, “Believe it or not, my senior year, I had a chance. I went to a rookie free agent with the Knicks, and it didn’t work out because of the lockout, and was almost getting ready to stop playing and started working at Price Waterhouse in D.C.”

That’s where Smith met Larry Bailey, an African-American partner for the firm who had clients like tennis great Serena Williams and NFL star Keyshawn Johnson. Bailey encouraged Smith to return to basketball.

Smith took Bailey’s advice and joined the Atlantic City Seagulls then eventually played for the United Basketball Association (UBA) where a Globetrotter representative saw him, “and the rest is history.”

In 2007, Smith decided to use his love for basketball to empower young people by establishing the non-profit group Choo Smith Youth Empowerment, Inc., which focuses on his “4L” philosophy: “Love it, Learn it, Live it, Lead it.” That led to the Choo Smith Summer Basketball Camp as well as many other initiatives.

In 2018, Smith became vice president of basketball operations for the Young 3 organization with retired NBA legend Jerome Williams, which serves as the youth and community arm of the Big 3 Professional Basketball League founded by rapper Ice Cube.

Smith has received numerous awards and recognitions, including:

  • 2011 Presidential Volunteer Services Award recipient,
  • 2012 Top 100 MBE Prestige Award recipient,
  • Named Celebrity Spokesperson for International Rett Syndrome Foundation,
  • Current Education and Player Development Coordinator for Maryland District Amateur Athletic Association,
  • 2013 Community Hero Award from Dunkin Donuts,
  • Donating his official Harlem Globetrotter Jersey to his Alma Mater University of the District of Columbia (November 19, 2014) and Baltimore City College High School (2018),
  • 2015 William Donald Schaffer Helping Others Award presented by the State of Maryland Comptroller,
  • 2015 Inspiring Voices Award recipient presented by Community Law in Action organization
  • 2015 Selected as one of the Spokespersons for Shooting for Peace
  • One of the faces of the 2015-2017 and 2017-2019 Visit Baltimore Campaign
  • Appointed to the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) Task Force 2016
  • National Basketball Retired Players Association Activities
  • Appointed to the NBRPA’S Governors Committee (2016)
  • 2017-2018 NBRPA President Search Committee (2016)
  • Appointed as the VP for the Retired Harlem Globetrotters Association
  • The 2016 Key Influencer Award and selected to fly with the Blue Angels
Charles "Choo" Smith Jr., Harlem Globetrotters Jersey

UDC alumnus and UDC Hall of Famer Charles “Choo” Smith Jr.’s jersey hangs on the wall in the Dr. E.B. Henderson Sports Complex Main Gym area.

Smith’s latest project is the Choo Smith aRise Baltimore CommuniVersity, a mixed use $120 million project development to be completed in 2026 that will sit on 20 plus acres of land in Baltimore City. The project will be designed to give the look and feel of a college campus.

Smith’s advice for aspiring basketball players is to make it their passion.

“You gotta have a willingness to understand you’re gonna have some failures. You’re gonna have some things that are going to be challenging, but just fight through and push it, and just be a good team player. Be somebody that people want to play with,” said Smith.

Despite all of his accomplishments, Smith believes his three kids are his biggest accomplishment.

“Even today, just my mom and dad really cared about me growing up in the rough inner-city of Baltimore, and seeing my three babies – you know they’re a little older now: 16, 14, and 11 – but it’s just them. Everything’s about them, just hoping that I can stand up and be the best dad possible, that they can say, ‘Daddy, you gave me a guide,’ and that’s my biggest accomplishment – my children,” he said.

Smith was on hand for the unveiling of the statue honoring UDC alumnus Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson, “The Grandfather of Black Basketball,” on June 24 in front of the Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson Sports Complex on UDC’s Van Ness campus.

“You gotta figure Dr. Nai Smith, he created basketball in the late 1800s, and then shortly, E.B. Henderson, the great E.B. Henderson took it on and then brought it to black communities and

taught the game and brought a flavor to the game, because you know how we are. We got that kind of new, that organic authenticity about ourselves, and to bring it to us in the inner-cities, and then win the first national championship 1909 and 1910,” he said.

Smith said Henderson’s legacy means the world to him.

“I’m just grateful that he created an opportunity for me to be standing here today, because if he didn’t do that, there is no me. So I just think we gotta give our legends and give our trailblazers a lot of love and we gotta give them their flowers while they’re living,” he said.

To read more about the Choo Smith aRise Baltimore CommuniVersity and to donate to the project, click here.