Daijon Smith responds to the nickname “Mush,” though it doesn’t provide an entirely accurate description of the Lyndhurst bowler’s personality.
His focus on the lanes is steely. When the senior throws an important strike, his fist-pumps are fervent. His vocal support of teammates helped spur the Golden Bears to their best season ever.
Yet, The Record Boys Bowler of the Year still has a soft spot for the moniker given to him as a child.
“My great-grandma used to pinch my cheeks and go, ‘mushy-mushy-mushy,’ and it stuck,” said Smith, 17. “People at the bowling alley called me that as a kid and I didn’t mind it, so I let it go on.”
Much of what made Smith the bowler he is today occurred during his formative years in East Orange. He took a liking to the sport at age 3 and has been delivering the ball the same way since, refining his technique over time.
“When I was younger, the ball was too heavy, and my mom let me stick with bowling two-handed,” he said. “My Uncle Lance helped me develop it, and the coaches in my Saturday morning league at Jersey Lanes [in Linden] helped me with it as well.”
When he moved to Newark as a freshman, he brought the style to American History High School and used it to win the 2013 Essex County title.
Since moving to Lyndhurst prior to his junior year, Smith has kept improving. During the winter, he became the first North Jersey bowler in 10 years to throw two 300 games in one season.
The 5-foot-7 Golden Bear did not finish outside the top seven at any tournament, from the season-opening Crusader Classic to the state team finals. He won high series (726) at the FDU Team Challenge and high game (290) at the state singles tournament, where he placed sixth and was only six pins shy of reaching the five-man stepladder finals.
His 225.2 overall average was No. 1 in North Jersey.