Two dribbles, lift a foot, another dribble, give the ball a spin, and shoot.
Violet Smith sinks another free throw.
And the 12-year-old from Puyallup knows how important it is to make the charity baskets.
“It can come down to a free throw to win a game,” Smith said. “So it’s always good to have the confidence you’re going to make it.”
Smith isn’t short on that. After winning school and district competitions, the Woodland Elementary sixth-grader competed Feb. 21 at the statewide National Hoop Shoot free-throw contest held by The Elks in Olympia. She took first in the girls 12- and 13-year-old division, making 18 of 25 shots, to earn the Washington state bid.
“It’s nice to know that I’ve accomplished this,” Smith said. “And it’s cool to be the only (girl in my age group) to represent my state.”
The win qualified Smith for the regional contest on March 7, where she matched up against students from Alaska, Idaho and Oregon. She placed third, making 16 of 25, narrowly missing a trip to the national final in Boston.
With one year of eligibility left, Smith will likely compete again next spring. For now, she’ll add sharp free throw shooting to her already refined skillset. At 4-foot-10, Smith is a polished ball handler, and plays recreationally above her age bracket with seventh- and eighth-graders for the South Hill Athletic Club.
“It’s not really intimidating to me because I’m a little bit more progressed,” she said. “I feel like I just fit in with them.”
Smith’s mother, Angie, said Violet’s quick progression in the sport started when she learned to crawl — the natural ability runs in the family. Violet’s father, Dan, won his district contest when he was her age. Her brother, Aidan, 14, won the state competition last year in the boys 12- and 13-year-old division, and lost the regional by one basket.
“She was trying to compete with her brother,” Angie said. “He’d go out and practice, and she’d sit on the sideline with the ball and try to dribble.”
By age four, Violet could compete with her brother, his teammates — anyone. And it drives her to keep learning. The want to best her brother — at least in The Elks competition — is a primary motivating factor. So what’s more important: a berth in the Hoop Shoot national final or the satisfaction of besting Aidan?
“They’re about the same,” Violet said.
As it stands, the two are level. She certainly has something to shoot for in 2016.