Last spring Andrew Smith wrapped up a four-year career at Butler, averaging 11.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a senior for a program that made three NCAA tournament appearances during his time at the school. For his career Smith, who played just under five minutes per game as a freshman, averaged 8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
The improvements made throughout his college career put Andrew in a position where he could play professionally, landing a contract with BC Neptunas, a professional team in Lithuania. But Smith’s time with the team was cut short for health reasons, as he was diagnosed with non-Hodgskin’s lymphoma after playing just five games for BC Neptunas.
He and his wife, Samantha, have started a blog they have named Kicking Cancer with the Smiths. Samantha discussed Andrew’s diagnosis in the first entry:
But an adventure that was supposed to kick off our marriage into a whirlwind of experience and culture was cut short when we were sat down at our kitchen table in Lithuania and were told there was a sizable tumor taking shape inside of Andrew. Shock, dismay, sadness, fear, and an emergency flight home were our next 36 hours. We had dreamt of the joyous day of setting foot on US ground once again, but this is certainly not what we had pictured. It was hard to be excited about reuniting with our loved ones because we knew that those hugs would be brief before heading straight to the hospital from O’Hare.
Smith finished his Butler career ranked in the top 25 of the school’s all-time scoring (25th) and rebounding (12th) lists. News of Smith’s diagnosis resulting in an outpouring of support, with members of the Butler community including former coaches and teammates and former competitors (including Xavier head coach Chris Mack and Indiana head coach Tom Crean) sending out positive messages via Twitter.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.