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 career 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:
Throughout his career, Lenzelle has been very very mean to a handful of teams inside the conference. It’s another example of just how streaky Smith can be from the field.
Last year, it was Nebraska. In Ohio State’s first meeting with the Huskers, the two guard was 5/7 from three point land in the Big Ten opener with seventeen points. A month later in Lincoln, Smith scored a season high 21 points on 6/6 shooting from the field to help the program defeat Nebraska for the seventh straight time.
Another culprit has been Michigan. Last year it was back to back 10 rebound games against the Wolverines. As a sophomore, he put together a monster double double. Lenzelle scored 17 points and had 12 rebounds. Eight of those coming on the offensive glass. Then in the Big Ten tournament, he was all over the place — grabbing six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.
Of course everybody remembers the run as a sophomore against Indiana that drove Tom Crean crazy. In their first match-up, Thad Matta saw a mismatch. It was Smith’s 12 point six rebound performance that the led the head coach to give his two guard the green light. Lenzelle Smith torched the Hoosiers in game two of the season with 28 points, shooting 10/12 from the field.
Now the question becomes, what teams get torched this season?
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. He is one of the streakiest shooters in the B1G. Which is a strength, but can also be a weakness.
One of the major strengths of Smith’s game can also be his weakness. His streaky play can sometimes get the best of him, especially from three point range. There is no doubt that his shot improved drastically after his sophomore season though. In non-conference play early in the season, Smith went 20/48 (42%) and really shot the lights out against weaker opponents. Overall, he shot a still impressive 37% from beyond the arc.
The problem is in big games and in the clutch, Smith’s game disappears.
Against ranked opponents, Smith went a combined 8/46 (17%) from three. In the biggest non-conference games against Duke and Kansas, Smith shot 1/13 from deep territory. In the B1G tournament, Lenzelle went 0/7 from downtown.
Smith has some monster games last season from the field. But for some reason in major games, his shot selection and rhythm were off kilter. Though there is no excuse for that type of play, part of the issue was a lack of inside post players that can kick the ball out cleanly to a spot shooter on the perimeter. That led to a ton of forced shots outside, especially against teams with great interior play.
Which was the case for nearly every single ranked team that Ohio State played last season.
Role for the Team:
Alongside Aaron Craft, this is Lenzelle Smith’s team. The senior has the trust of his this coaching staff and the players around him. He is a major part of what is considered by a lot of basketball minds as one of the best defensive back courts in the country.
Smith will be called on to be the type of combo guard every single championship caliber team needs. He will be asked to grab five rebounds a game, while being a solid defender and an even better help defender on the wing.
Despite his struggles, he will still be called upon at times to be a top three option on offense for this squad.
Smith has already set a prime example of how to finish plays and to get up and down the floor. He will be called upon to continue that leadership this season as well.
My prediction is that Smith will get back to his roots of being a combo guard and not worry too much about hoisting up as many jumpers in 2013. There is no doubt, his role on this team will play a major role in the success or faltering of this team.
Especially in key games and in March.