Ron “Itchy” Smith, who led Camden High to consecutive state championships in 1959 and 60, diedWednesday night at age 79.

Widely regarded as one of the best basketball players in South Jersey history, Smith became the Panthers’ first career 1,000-point scorer, finishing with 1,276 points while leading the team on a 47-game winning streak.

“The first name my dad brought up to me when I expressed interest in basketball was Itchy Smith,” said Denny Brown, a Camden alum and South Jersey Basketball Hall of Famer. “And then my dad talked about Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson. That’s how prevalent he’s been in my mind.”

Smith played college basketball at Tennessee State University. He’s a member of the Camden County Sports Hall of Fame and NJSIAA Hall of Fame.

Some of Smith’s classmates believe he could have gone straight to the NBA if he had the opportunity. Smith instead returned home and ran a candy store until his retirement in the 1990s. He was known as a humble and quiet guy.

“Everybody is so genuine and emphatic about how humble he was and how he carried himself,” Brown said. “You would like to think that everybody would adopt that humility.”

Camden has produced some of the best players in South Jersey preps history, starting with Smith’s championship teams. Milt Wagner, Billy Thompson, Dajuan Wagner and Dajuan Wagner Jr. are among those who followed.

Just three weeks ago, Smith was honored at Camden High with a street naming and his No. 44 jersey retirement ceremony. He was the first Camden player to receive that honor.

» READ MORE: Camden came together to honor Ron ‘Itchy’ Smith, one of the city’s first and most-revered basketball legends

Brown, who helped organize the event, received several calls early Thursday from people who were grateful the celebration happened while Smith was alive to see it. There had been talks of delaying the event to the basketball season.

“I hope what we were able to do in honoring ‘Itchy’ will resonate in all communities in the area that still have these folks around to go ahead and honor them while they are here,” Brown said. “It doesn’t have to be a big ceremony.”

The current Camden basketball team will be one of the top-ranked public schools in the nation. The team was in attendance at Smith’s ceremony and discussions have begun about how the program will honor him this season.