Thursday, November 15, 2012

First Impression of Marcus Smart

If immediate impressions are everlasting then I will forever remember Marcus Smart's backcourt violation to start the game. Smart received the tip and proceeded to cross the halfcourt line, only in the wrong direction. Luckily, that isn't the only thing I observed about Smart in my first look at him in college.

You could say he started off on the wrong foot, but ankle would be more appropriate as coach Travis Ford said he was only at 50% due to his ankle injury. This ankle has been bothering him and resulted in Smart adding some extra weight to his frame that he needs to lose. Nothing bad though, underneath the little fat he put on is a body of a man - 6'4'' and over 220 pounds of man to be exact.

Smart has a mature body and he also has a mature game. The coaches rave about him and so do the coaches from the U-18 National team (Billy Donavan) that he played for over the summer. He has taken over the leadership role already and took ownership of the point guard position even though he was recruited as a two guard.

Smart's leadership and under control patient style make his transition to the point guard position rather seamless. He set up his teammates with plenty of good passes, pushed the ball up court via the pass when applicable, and was always willing to give the ball up. He makes attacking the hoop look easy by staying under control and never really going full speed. He may have been extra methodical today though due to his ankle, but Smart's ability to be effective at slower speeds makes him wise beyond his years. He changed speeds with ease and showed of good footwork going to the rim and appears to have the Eurostep down pact. In the second half Smart got more comfortable at point guard and began to make more plays. By overtime, he had created three straight easy jumpers for his close friend Phil Forte.

I would guess that his ankle really was bothering him these past two games. He was unable to convert on multiple lay-ups, lost his footing multiple times, and was limited defensively in his ability to change direction. Besides things that appeared to be effected by his angle, I loved everything about his game.

Defensively, Smart gave great effort and was willing to get physical. His ankle came into play here as well, as he was able to be taken off the dribble multiple times. This isn't a big deal and I believe with his frame and effort that he can be a very good defender. He also has nice instincts and good hands, getting 4 steals in today's game. The one thing he needs to do a better job of is dealing with screens. Smart got tied up in many of them and although his willingness to run into screens at full speed is admirable, he could make the game easier for himself as he learns more about college level defense. Smart is also an excellent rebounding guard and very vocal.

Overall, Smart is definitely a first round prospect and has the ability to play both guard positions in the future. His game should really take off once his ankle heals and if it does, the lottery is not out of the question for him. He has some James Harden in his game.

* LeBryan Nash operated exclusively inside today and was a force doing so. Last year he strayed to the outside too often. He is finding out just how unstoppable he can be when he uses his strong frame and athleticism around the hoop. Nash was able to get good position inside all day and finish through contact. He has a solid first step, but more than anything he knows how to use angles and his body to get a defender on his size. Nash's game from 15 feet in is very complete, showing off a fadeaway jumper, a little pull-up, and the ability put it on the floor for two dribbles and finish. He looks much more pedestrian however from outside the arc, which is where he will probably be asked to play at the next level.

Akron's Zeke Marshall also played, although he quickly picked up two fouls in two minutes in the first half. He was unable to get any kind of good position against OSU's Phillip Jurick and didn't get his first field goal until overtime when Jurick was on the bench.

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