Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Basketball Preview Part II: Meet Craig Smith

If Jared Dudley is the team’s most complete player, Craig Smith still has a chance to be this year’s best player. When he is on, he is dominant in the low post. He can demand the double team and open up easy baskets for his teammates. With the move to the ACC -- which doesn’t have the Big East’s rep for physical play or as many wide bodies -- Smith can really exploit his size advantage this year.

But Craig is more than a brute. He has very soft hands and great touch around the basket. He also runs the floor pretty well and can finish. Like many on the team, he is a good passer and will make the extra pass.

This summer Smith impressed many on Team USA with his moves facing the basket. (I don’t know if that was growth in his game or just an adaptation to the international style of play.)

So his upside is huge, however, he is not as well-rounded as Dudley. He is not a great ball handler in the open court. In the past when team’s pressed us, Craig was not able to help the guards break it. When he is on, he is a monster on the boards, but there were a few nights when he disappeared. His defense is good, but not great and he has been known to get in foul trouble. Smith is not much of a threat from beyond 12 feet. And his free throw shooting has never risen above 68%. My one other concern is that he’ll have to play long minutes at Center until Sean Williams returns in January. The extra defensive burden may impact his offensive game.

(That list of gripes should be taken with a grain of salt, since the things he is good at (low post scoring) he is great at.)

The reports from this summer were very encouraging. Smith was the standout on a college All-Star team. He has proven that he is a great scorer. If he rebounds with consistency this year, and improves his shooting, this team could be deadly.

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