Oregon v Georgetown

Markel Starks on Josh Smith: ‘You never really know what you’re going to get from [him]’

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Joshua Smith has been an enigma since the moment he stepped on a collegiate court.

From a talent perspective, there are few that are on Smith’s level. His size, his hands, his footwork, his touch around the rim. He’s got lottery pick talent.

His problem has always been effort and desire.

Does he want to be good at basketball bad enough to get into — and stay in — game-shape? This is his fourth year as a college basketball player, and the answer, to date, is a definitive ‘no’.

He’s better conditioned now than he was the last couple of years back at UCLA and, to his credit, he does look slimmer. But he’s still not in the kind of shape that would allow him to maximize his potential. He’s still a major defensive liability. And he’s still struggling with his consistency.

I’m not the only one to notice.

“If I come out, if I’m lax, the entire team is going to be lax. Some guys are going to come that are ready to play, but from a mental standpoint, I pose so much for the team to be collectively good,” senior point guard Markel Starks told Ben Standig of CSNWashington.com. “D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, he’s going to come out, he’s going to be ready to play. Josh, it’s a different story. You never really know what you’re going to get from Josh. Not so much we, but he also has to find his rhythm and give us something consistent. No, he’s not going to give us 25 points and seven rebounds a night. Can he, absolutely. He can be the most dominant big in the nation. But is he? We have yet to determine that.”

Starks later added, “Honestly, Josh can play 30 minutes. It’s just does Josh want to play 30 minutes on a particular night. He’s in really good shape. Everybody wants to talk about his weight and stuff like that. That stuff goes out the window. He’s productive and he can be really productive for us and he will be productive for us. (Starks laughs) He doesn’t have any other option.”

It’s important to note here that Starks was speaking with “positive intentions”, according to Standig. It also should be noted that Starks and Smith are roommates, and that Starks is not the kind of personality that will sugarcoat what he says. He’s an intense dude, and if he’s saying something to the media, you better believe he’s said the same thing to Smith.

But it’s interesting to note that someone on the Georgetown roster is recognizing the same thing that we are. Smith, with all of his deficiencies, is the guy that turns Georgetown from an NCAA tournament team to a legitimate favorite to win the Big East.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.