Miami Heat forward Haywood Highsmith Jr. has been an integral part of the Miami Heat’s effort to be crowned NBA champions in 2023. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

By Timothy Cox,
Special to the AFRO
Seventies Soul

During the 2023 NBA Playoffs, the Miami Heat has been one of the surprise teams this spring.

Star players like Jimmy “Buckets” Butler, Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo and perennial champion Kevin Love, are familiar names hoping to lead the team back to another championship.

Unexpectedly, a Baltimore baller named Haywood Highsmith Jr., is one of the unknown players who’s quietly making a name for himself, while earning good marks with Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra.

At a youthful 26-years-old, Highsmith has earned his road to the NBA, the hard way. A 2014 graduate of Baltimore’s Archbishop Curley High School, Highsmith was considered a sleeper who had potential to be courted by some of the larger area colleges, according to his high school basketball coach of two years, Brian Hubbard.

At 6-3, 195 pounds, Highsmith had the physique to play at an NCAA Division I school, but the attention didn’t occur, said coach Hubbard.

Unlike other Charm City hoop legends like Tyrone “Mugsy” Bogues, Reggie Lewis, David Wingate and Reggie Williams, Haywood didn’t play at the famed basketball powerhouse, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. He was, however, one of the Baltimore Catholic Leagues all-time leading scorers and rebounders.

Along with coach Hubbard, Haywood’s father, Haywood Highsmith Sr., was also an alumnus of Archbishop Curley. When the big schools failed to call on his son, Haywood Sr. sought out his college, Fairmont State University in West Virginia, where the older Highsmith starred during his collegiate years.

Meanwhile, coach Hubbard checked with his college alma mater, Wheeling University, a Jesuit institution and Division II institution. Long-story short: Highsmith became an instant star at the small West Virginia college and signed as an undrafted rookie with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Now, having matured to 6-7 and over 200 pounds, the swingman-forward guard enjoyed a two-year stint in Philly, including G-League play in Delaware. He was then traded to Miami.

In Spring 2022, he signed a three-year deal with the Heat after three 10-day contracts. He has enjoyed a very productive 2022-23 season with the Heat, including significant play-action in the 2023 NBA playoffs.

Coach Hubbard said he’s not surprised by his former pupil’s success.

“He comes from an excellent family. Great parents,” Hubbard told the AFRO. “He’s never given up, no matter what difficulties he has faced, he’s been persistent and has persevered to make it to the highest level of basketball in the world.”

Greg Loftus, the alumni director at Archbishop Curley, said his school’s administration and student population are very proud of Highsmith’s success in bringing fame to their small, private Catholic school. Loftus said he envisions Highsmith will soon be elected to the high school’s Sports Hall of Fame.


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