Anthony Smith III, A3, has become a rising star in the amateur hoops ranks

Get used to reading about the name Anthony Smith III.

Smith, or A3 as he is called amongst family and the hoops community, has blossomed so much on the hardwood after just five years of playing basketball that he has earned status as one of the top national recruits for the Class of 2025.

The Redwood Valley fifth grader has been a member of the talented Minnesota Spartan Elite team - one of the top AAU teams in the country - since the third grade and has managed to dominate rival competition despite playing against kids often a grade or two above him.

A3’s meteroic rise in the AAU scene actually had a interesting start. Before his hoops career had begun, he did what a lot of Minnesota youth do, he wrestled.

And he was good.

“His first sport was wrestling at a young age and he was pretty good at it,” Father Anthony Smith, Jr. said, “It was at that point I realized he was a natural athlete.”

According to Smith, Jr., A3 came up to him one day at the age of 7 and said, ‘Hey Dad, I wanna play basketball like you’. “So I told him OK, we need to start training so the summer of first grade was when he attended his first basketball camp,” Smith, Jr. said.

He attended a Hopkins Basketball Camp and a Park Center Camp as well as spending countless hours working on him game in the gym.

His talent became evident and he began to take off at the age of eight, as a second-grader, as he joined a house basketball league with 9-foot rims and essentially dominated the league.

“He went in right from the get-go and was pretty much unstoppable,” Smith Jr, said, “It was pretty incredible what he was able to do that early on in his training.”

That March he tried out for the 3rd grade Minnesota Magic AAU team and made the team.

“I remember John Sherman (who runs the Magic) telling me he reminds me of a young Tyus Jones and that we should move him up to the fourth grade Magic team,” Smith, Jr. said, “I agreed.”

A3 then spent the season as the only second grader on a fourth grade team and watched his skillset continue to develop. During that summer he attended camps at Hopkins and DeLaSalle but really showcased himself at the Nike Camp. There, out of 115 kids, he earned the ‘Best Shooter’ Award and was named one of the top 20 players in camp.

Entering the third grade, A3 took another step forward in his young AAU career by earning a place on the Minnesota Spartan Elite team.

“I think it was then that I realized what a great shooter he is,” Smith, Jr. said.

It was during his first season that A3 was featured on several recruiting websites and first began to get noticed nationally.

As a fourth grader, he was invited to an elite middle school camp in Washington, DC and opened up eyes among the talent scouts in attendance. The Minnesota Spartans Elite team also was earning spotlight at this point - being ranked 12th overall nationally - and they would go on to win yet another State Championship.

That summer the team would play basketball all over the country, including stops in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio and Washington, D.C. They would also earn their third straight State title and advanced on to the Nationals in Witchita, KS where they earned a second place finish.

This past season, the Minnesota Spartans Elite team went undefeated all year, playing against mostly older kids, on the way to their fourth straight State championship.

In early December he hit six straight three’s in the first six minutes of a Spartan win and averaged around four to five three-pointers a game. Recently at the Minnesota 5th grade All-Star game he earned MVP honors as his team picked up the victory.

One of A3’s teammates and friends is Isa El-Amin, the son of former Minneapolis North and UCONN legend Khalid El-Amin. Father Anthony, Jr. played at Hopkins alongside former Gopher and NBA player Kris Humphries.

The talent level at these AAU events is incredible and includes a number of NBA players sons, including LeBron James, Jr.

A3 recently got back from an AAU Tournament in St. Louis and Smith, Jr. began getting calls from camps interested in having A3 attend, along with other unique offers.

“I decided that it might be best for him to train and hit some of these out of state camps as opposed to playing AAU,” Smith, Jr. said, “It was a hard decision to make but I felt it was the best option for him. He’s still a member of the Spartans we’re just taking the summer off.”

A3 will be attending his first elite camp this month when he takes part in the prestigious John Lucas Camp that entertains the top fifth and sixth graders in the country.

What makes A3 unique is his tremendous work ethic at such a young age. His dedication and countless hours of blood, sweat and tears have turned him into a basketball sponge and he is soaking up everything about the game that could make him great.

“He’s gifted beyond his age,” Coach T said, “He has the skill and work ethic equivalent to a Division I player and he’s only in fifth grade. I have to do advanced work with him because he picks things up so easily.”

His YouTube videos speak for themselves and can be found by googling Anthony Smith III.

A3 is fortunate to have a strong family base around him that includes father Anthony Smith, Jr, (A2), mom Marissa Hoffman-Larsen, a graduate of Wabasso High School, step-Dad Adam Larsen a graduate of Redwood Falls-Morton, grandparents Randy and Johnna Hoffman of Wabasso, Beverly and Fred Charleston of Brooklyn Park, Curt and Cathy Larsen of Morton and Anthony Smith, Sr of Los Angeles (formerly of Minneapolis).

With his whole hoops career still in front of him, the future is beyond bright for the potential Redwood Valley Cardinal and it will be entertaining to see just how far A3 can go with a one-of-a-kind talent.

“I just want him to keep it up, work hard and follow his dream,” Mom Marissa Hoffman-Larsen said, “We’re going to do whatever it takes as parents to help him achieve that.”