There are not many players on the 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes that will spark more debate than Lenzelle Smith Jr. Despite his strong career in an Ohio State uniform, the two year starter and senior has received a lot of criticism for his play on the court. Despite what fans believe, there is no doubt that this team is in part led by
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 who has shown during his time at Ohio State that he can be a very versatile combo guard. From timely games offensively, to being the best rebounding guard in the B1G. He has also shown his ability to distribute the basketball on the fast break, play shut down defense on top guards, and even throw down the emphatic dunk from time to time.
Despite being an all-around player, there are still many questions that need to be answered about Lenzelle’s game heading into his senior season.
There should no worrying though if you doubt what Lenzelle Smith can do on the floor. His senior season will be the platform in which he silences the critics.
Ohio State Awards/Accomplishments:
-2012 All East Region Tournament Team (17.5 PPG, 24 Rebounds in whole NCAA tournament)
-600 points scored in collegiate career
As a sophomore, Lenzelle won the starting position beside Aaron Craft as the best answer to replace Jon Diebler’s hot hand and provide and offensive spark. 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. By the end of the year, he started to consistently find his shooting touch and could be a devastating threat when not properly defended.
His hard work and dedication to the system paid off in the NCAA tournament, especially in Regional bracket, where he was named to the all tourney team and averaged 17.5 points per game. Late in the year he really turned up his game, including two games where Thad Matta and the coaching staff put their full trust in him during the month of January. With so many teams in the B1G targeting Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas, Matta gave the keys to Lenzelle to score.
Versus Michigan, the OSU guard tallied his first double double, scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Just weeks after torching Indiana to the tune of 28 points on 10-12 shooting.
To say there was a lot of pressure to be a stud his junior season might be an understatement. And for many casual fans, he did disappoint. A closer look at his role though will help undermine any preconceived opinions of Smith’s game heading into his senior season.
As usual, stats come from Buckeyes Beat blog.
Mr. Hot Shot:
Lenzelle Smith is the definition of a combo guard. Not only does he do a great job of distributing the basketball, but he also combines his solid perimeter defense with a sneaky athleticism.
You know you’re doing something right if you’ve started 74 straight games for head coach Thad Matta. One thing that every Matta coached team has is a basketball player that can do it all with a very unique skill set that you won’t see across the country.
Much in the mold of David Lighty, Smith Jr. has find his niche as a combo threat whether it’s scoring, defense, or his superior ability to grab rebounds from the shooting guard position. LZ32 is one of the best in the country at his position when it comes to boxing out opponents. His 374 career rebounds are proof. His 4.8 rebound per game tally last year was higher than any center or forward on the roster.
He has also proven to be excellent in the X-factor role when Thad Matta has called upon him. There is no doubt that opposing teams have targeted in on other weapons heavily in the past.
When the coaches roll the dice on him being a dominant force — he’s shown up.
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