After a season spent riding the pine behind Aaron Craft and Jon Diebler, Lenzelle Smith came into his own as a starter last season for the Buckeyes. His transition to the 2 role on the team was a little rocky at first, but he settled in and managed to have several strong showings towards the end of the year. His place is now pretty well cemented, and he’s poised to have a true breakout year this season.
Hometown: Zion, Illinois
High School: Zion-Benton
Position: Guard (2)
High School Awards:
- Illinois Class 4A First Team(2010)
- High School Academic All-American (2010)
- First Team All-State (2009)
Lenzelle Smith was a three star athlete by scout.com out of Zion-Benton high school. He’s a left-handed player with a smooth shooting stoke and solid ability to distribute the ball. We regularly saw him in his first season on the fast break making a sweet pass to a teammate (often Sibert or Weatherspoon) to set them up for a layup or dunk.
Last year, Lenzelle Smith won the starting position beside Aaron Craft as the best answer to replace Jon Diebler’s hot hand. Smith’s role early in the season reflected his inexperience, as he struggled to contribute offensively on the score-sheet in any meaningful way. However, his defensive skills were solid and improved quickly, allowing him to slowly grow his offensive skills over time. By the end of the year, he started to consistently find his shooting touch and could be a devastating threat when not properly defended.
Smith is also a very cerebral guy who excels in the classroom, as noted by his Academic All-American award in High School. The players who participated in that All-American grade had an average of 3.6 GPA all told.
As usual, stats come from Buckeyes Beat blog.
As a former point guard, he is an excellent ball distributor. He combines that with wonderful Basketball IQ, making him a dangerous individual with the ball in his hands. With a host of good players surrounding him, he can make a basketball team very nearly lethal. When his own shooting skills are added in defenses will have a tough time while he’s on the floor.
Smith has also proven to be a solid, if not great, defender for the Buckeyes. His strength lies in team defense, helping out where he can working with other players to shut down areas of the floor. Ultimately, he works hard on the defensive end, and often finds himself scooping up rebounds in traffic, sometimes even beating out better and bigger rebounders deep in the paint.
Lenzelle Smith’s game is still not perfect by any means. His man-to man defense in particular still needs some work, though considering this is partially in comparison to Aaron Craft, it’s almost not a fair evaluation. Smith does, however, has allowed himself to be beaten off the dribble in the past, and does better when someone’s there to get his back. Improving the speed of his footwork should enable him to cut-off the dribble drive much more effectively.
Smith could also stand to improve his shooting from long range. His 37.8% three point shooting last year was good, but it’s not the serious threat that you often consider the 2-guard to be. If he can get it up over 40% this season, he could make it tough for opposing defenses to handle. It will be particularly necessary this year so that the front court players can acclimate themselves to their more significant roles. Having Smith be a good three point shooter will force defenders outside and keep them from collapsing on Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel.
Role for the Team:
After starting in all 39 games last season, it’s hard to believe Smith won’t continue in his role with Aaron Craft in the backcourt again this year. He has the most experience at the 2 on this team, and his amazing improvement towards the end of last year alone warrants inclusion in the starting lineup. But, as Matta points out, it’s not the starting lineup that matters, but who’s on the court at the end of the game that makes a difference. I see no reason why Smith won’t be on the court with the game on the line after his performance last year.
He may not, however, see an expansion of his playing time from last season. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but there are simply too many talented players on the roster this year for them to not to see the court. Luckily, the biggest bottleneck is at the 3 with LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson, so Smith should find himself seeing a similar amount of playing time.
Lenzelle Smith could very well be poised for a breakout year this season. If his shooting has taken a step forward, and I suspect it has, he could be the Buckeyes next memorable rainmaker on the outside. Coupled with Aaron Craft, and the above-the-net circus act that will be the guys at the 3, Smith will be a significant piece of the answer to the Buckeye’s scoring question this year.
2012 Basketball Previews:
Sept 27th – Aaron Craft
Oct 3rd – Amedeo Della Valle
Oct 5th – Trey McDonald
Oct 7th – Evan Ravenel
Oct 9th – Alex Rogers
Oct 11th – LaQuinton Ross
Oct 16th – Shannon Scott
Oct 18th – Lenzelle Smith Jr.
Oct 23rd – DeShaun Thomas
Oct 25th – Sam Thompson
Oct 30th – Amir Williams
Nov 1st – Coaches