The player recaps continue with a look at a relative unknown heading into the season, but who proved to be a valuable contributor throughout the course of the year, Chris Smith.
Chris sat out the 2009-10 season due to transfer rules, but in his final season at Manhattan, averaged 13.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game while shooting 36% from the floor, including 29% from three point range. In his first season at UofL, Smith tallied only 9.4 ppg, but contributed on the boards with 4.6 per game and dished out 2.5 assists per game.
However, the biggest improvement in his game showed in his shooting percentages. Rick Pitino said on many occasions Chris worked extremely hard to refine his shooting mechanics and in fact, pretty much developed a completely different shot than the one he came to Louisville with. As a result, Chris shot 46% from the floor and 40% from deep, both marked improvements from his final season at Manhattan.
The only real drop from a numbers perspective was his foul shooting. Smith shot 73% from the foul line during his sophomore season, but only shot 68% for the Cards. Overall though, I think if most Cardinal fans had to be pleased with the performance of Chris Smith.
Chris had several really good games this season, but I think his best was against UNLV. Chris scored 17 points on 6-9 shooting and grabbed 6 rebounds. He also recorded 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Beyond the stat sheet, Chris made several big plays in critical spots during that game.
During the Cards’ run in the second half, Chris sent back a shot attempt by Justin Hawkins that brought the crowd to their feet, then buried a three later to give the Cards a 64-55 lead with just under 7:00 to play. It was a great game for Chris and a big win for Louisville.
Chris did not have too many poor games in my opinion. In fact, some of his worst games from a statistical standpoint came during wins and I cannot deem anything the lowpoint during a win. Having said that, I think Smith’s worst game was against UConn in the Big East tournament final. Chris scored 6 points on 3-7 shooting, several of which were ill-advised shots. He only grabbed 3 rebounds, did get 3 assists, but also committed 3 turnovers.
In a game I thought the Cards pretty much gift wrapped to Connecticut, Chris did not have his best night.
As I mentioned earlier, I think Chris had a pretty solid year and was a pleasant surprise so I cannot say I was disappointed with too much. I would like to see him focus on free throw shooting and shot selection. Chris only shot 68% from the foul line and for a guy who played as many minutes as he did, especially minutes in crucial situations, he needs to be more reliable from the line.
In terms of shot selection, there were several occasions in which Chris would make a questionable drive or take a less than stellar shot when they just weren’t there. Again, I have no huge complaints with him, but those were two things that stood out for me. It will be interesting to see how many minutes Chris sees next season. A guy named Wayne Blackshear will be arriving on campus and barring injury, should be in line for major time at the two guard.
I think Chris Smith’s value to next year’s Cardinal team will be with rebounding and his defense. Given the personnel the 2011-12 team should have, I don’t think Chris will have to score a lot. If he can just focus on rebounding and taking/making good, open looks he will be just fine. However it goes down, I feel Chris Smith will be a valuable contributor again in his senior campaign.