Will Josh Smith’s Fresh Start at Georgetown Equal Success?Posted by Todd Keryc on October 28th, 2013
The NCAA granted a waiver to Georgetown big man Josh Smith last week, making the junior center eligible for the start of the season. The decision elicited questions around the country, shocking seemingly everyone who covers the sport. Smith played six games last year for UCLA yet will start with the clean slate he was seeking in transferring to Georgetown, with two full years of eligibility remaining.
Yes, the questions emerging out of the NCAA’s decision are fair. But Smith is eligible and this has a major effect on the upcoming season for Georgetown. Before wearing out his welcome with a reportedly substandard work ethic, Smith showed legitimate promise with UCLA. In his first two seasons, he averaged more than 10 points and five rebounds per game while playing fewer than 20 minutes. He also shot better than 56 percent from the floor. The numbers show a productive player in limited minutes. Yet it was the minutes, or lack thereof, that ultimately caused Smith’s demise and transfer from UCLA.Smith is listed at 6’10” and 350 pounds. By comparison, Shaquille O’Neal, perhaps the modern standard of dominant oversized basketball players, was listed at 7’1” and 325 pounds. Take one look at Smith from his UCLA days and you see a guy clearly overweight yet blessed with incredible basketball skill for a man his size. He has soft hands and great touch inside, a necessary combination for any post presence with future aspirations. When he was on the court, Josh Smith made a difference. The issue was with how long he could stay on the court.
Being in shape is a foregone conclusion for most college athletes, but it is something Josh Smith struggled with in his first two-plus years. His actual weight, the number listed on websites and in media guides, does not matter. He is a big guy who takes up space inside because he is a big guy. What matters far more is his ability to produce for extended periods of time. It matters whether Smith can move on the defensive end quickly enough to cut off a pick-and-roll or to provide help to a beaten teammate. Those are the things Georgetown head coach John Thompson III will be looking for from his newly-eligible center. Smith needs to be sprightly, not svelte.
Looking to be reborn in his college basketball second life, Smith has come to the right place. Georgetown has always been home to great centers, from Ewing, Mutombo and Mourning to the more recent Hibbert and Monroe. If there is one thing that is a given in the Big East, it’s that a Thompson at Georgetown knows how to coach a big man. And now JTIII, who has to replace the Big East’s best player last season in Otto Porter, has his first potentially elite center since Greg Monroe left for the NBA. This could be the perfect combination of coach and player in the right place at the right time.
Given the decision last week, we now know that Georgetown will not have to wait for Josh Smith. The question that remains: Will his weight be worth it?