Nate Lubick on guarding Josh Smith in practice: ‘Ugh. It’s miserable.’

Leave a comment

Nate Lubick is a senior at Georgetown. He’s spent three years grinding it out in the Big East, battling in the paint against the likes of Louisville and Syracuse and UConn on a nightly basis. He’s as veteran as a veteran can get, which is why you can trust his opinion on what it’s like trying to guard Josh Smith in the post.

“Ugh. It’s miserable,” Lubick said guarding Smith in practice. “He backs it down and dunks it on me every time. He’s good. It’s something that’s very hard for another team to prepare.”

That’s all you really need to know about Smith if you’re a Georgetown fan.

There may not be a better low-post scorer in the country, which is scary when you consider that the most underrated aspect of Smith’s game is his passing ability.

“When he’s really good, he’s really good. When he’s a little off, he’s a little off,” senior point guard Markel Starks, who happens to double as Smith’s roommate, said with a smile. “It’s not like he’s a bad passer. Very good instincts, a good feel for the game.”

In other words, Smith should fit quite well into the hybrid-Princeton offense that the Hoyas run. The fact that it’s a “big man school” is one of the reasons he made the choice, but it wasn’t the only one.

“The coaches, they don’t just care about you on the court,” Smith said, “they care about you off the court. For me, being that far from home, [that’s big].”

And while there is always a learning curve for players entering John Thompson III’s program, it’s important to remember that Smith isn’t a typical addition; he’s been with this team for almost a year, having enrolled for the second semester last season. He’s got plenty of practice time under his belt.

“When I first go there I was really confused,” Smith said to reporters in his first meeting with the media as a member of the Hoyas. “It was kind of hard. But being here almost a year now, being able to practice with the guys last year and being able to play this year. The thing with Coach Thompson offense is, with bigs especially, you have to be able to handle the ball and make passes. We’ve been working through it and I feel comfortable.”

Smith isn’t a dumb kid. He’s well-spoken with a quick wit and a goofy sense of humor. He seems to fit in well with this group. On paper, it’s a perfect fit, but looking at it on paper won’t tell you whether or not he’s dedicated himself to getting into good enough condition to be able to contribute 25 minutes per game. Neither Thompson nor Smith would divulge how much Smith weighs or how much weight he’s lost. Instead, they focused on the ideas of production and minutes. What the scale reads when he steps on it isn’t as important was how long Smith’s able to play at maximum effort. Will he be too gassed to move his feet defensively after playing for three or four minutes? Will he be able to get to where he needs to be offensively in late-game possessions?

That said, it’s obvious looking at him that he’s slimmed down some since his days in Westwood.

“He’s in a lot better shape,” Starks said, although to a man, everyone in the program said he’s not yet where he needs to be.

“I been here for almost a year, so even though I haven’t been on the court, I’ve been at every practice with them, every conditioning, lift, workout, playing,” Smith said. “I’ve been doing all of it. I’ve just noticed a really big change, being able to go for a little bit in practice and now being able to go for a full practice, I feel better running up and down the floor.”

“I’m more motivated because I’ve been off for about a year. I keep telling these guys, I haven’t played a game since I can’t remember.”

For now, Smith, who was on the then-No. 11 UCLA team that lost to Georgetown at the Barclays Center, seems to finally just be happy to get back on the court, if for no reason other to regain some of his locker room bragging rights.

“Ever since I’ve been here,” he said, “the guys have been giving me crap, saying, ‘Oh, we beat y’all when y’all were top ten.'”

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

(Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

Leave a comment

Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

Baylor Athletics
Leave a comment

Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.