Keith Smith is back for his second season with the program. The Oregon forward looks poised for consistent playing time in his sophomore campaign. The Seattle product is a solid defender that is growing offensively.
Let’s take a look at the 2017-18 roster with our individual player profile series. After placing you in an intro class to Oregon’s five new freshmen last week, this week we profile the entire 2017-18 roster before we get serious next week (tip-off week).
UNFOLDING THE 2017-18 OREGON ROSTER
Keith Smith (Nov. 7)
Roman Sorkin (Nov. 8)
Evan Gross (Nov. 9)
“IT’S GOTTA BE THE SHOES”
Smith is listed at 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds, as he gained 10 LBS during his short offseason. Last year, the true freshman got his proverbial feel wet in the college game. He wasn’t forced onto the floor obviously, as the Ducks boasted star leadership. Yet, Smith provided some important minutes late in the season after the Chris Boucher injury. This year, he has a role carved out for himself.
As a true freshman, we didn’t hear from Smith very much. Yet, things will change this season as one of the veterans of the group. The sophomore forward believes it will take time for the team to gel on the floor, namely on the offensive end.
“Offense, for sure,” said Smith. “Guys are just learning the sets. It’s a very complicated offense. There are a lot of counter sets, based on what the defense does. Defensively, it’s a lot easier when you bring your effort and talk. As long as you’re communicating. But, I think the offense will take a little longer.”
Smith will come off the bench for this team, as the seventh, eighth or even ninth player used on certain nights. Of course, he will grab some starts along the way for Altman, but his true value comes from his useful, efficient minutes on the floor.
Defensively, his role is to guard the forward spot. His versatility lies in the fact that he can guard both positions. That is no easy feat. Look for Smith to be more involved offensively this year, especially under the rim. He can generate offensive rebounds. With hands made for tipping passes, Smith keeps balls alive for second-chance points.
Averaging just 6.4 minutes a game as a true frosh, Smith amassed 1.9 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.3 SPG and 0.2 BPG. He scored a career-high 15 points against Savannah State on December 3. However, he earned his stripes down the stretch. In the 2017 Final Four vs North Carolina, Smith registered four crucial points and two boards in three minutes on the court. The time was limited, but his impact couldn’t be measured after UO lost by just a single point.
LEGEND...WAIT FOR IT
This one is a throwback, but Smitty’s gritty defensive nature reminds me of a former Chicago legend who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1981 NBA Draft. Mark Aguirre played 13 years in the NBA, most notably as a two-time NBA Champion with the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons of the late 80’s. Most of you or your parents remember the Trail Blazers losing to that squad in the 1990 NBA Finals. Now, Aguirre was also the Naismith Player of the Year as a collegiate at DePaul University. Nevertheless, Smith plays defense like the former three-time NBA All-Star. He will take another step forward in 2017.
Also, take a look at Jimmy Butler BEFORE he was drafted. When he was at Marquette, Butler was a defensive-minded 6-foot-7 player like Smith. He had to earn his minutes over the years, as his game and maturity evolved. Butler developed his jumper and offensive game years into his pro career with the Chicago Bulls. Trust the process and Altman.
His father, Keith Smith was a big-time college basketball player. He spent time playing for legendary coach Paul Westhead at Loyola Marymount. Smith was an All-Conference First Teamer for three straight years (1984-86). He was then selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the 1986 NBA Draft. In 2000, Smith was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at Loyola Marymount.
Coincidently, Smith was pro-bound just as the Loyola Marymount program was set to enter the national spotlight. To this day, we have never seen anything like those next three years (1988-90). After Smith amassed 31 wins between his final two years in college, LMU went on to win 20-plus games for the next three seasons, including a remarkable 28-4 record with the incredible duo of Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble.
THE BOX SCORE
This season, Smith will take another step in the right direction as his college career unfolds. PREDICTION: The sophomore will average 4.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 0.9 SPG amid 16.3 MPG this season. He will have a handful of games where he scores double digits, including a double-double prior to the start of Pac-12 season.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Smith is a funny guy. He seems to be one of the players that keeps the team loose, which is vital. Every legitimate team needs someone in the locker room like Smith. Someone who’s willing to play defense or give Altman three great minutes on the floor in the Final Four; teammates like Smith are invaluable to team chemistry.
“If you cut off your hair I’m clearly taller” https://t.co/0fHkbVKl0e— Keith Smith (@Smittystweets_) October 29, 2017
The former Rainier Beach superstar made his name in the state of Washington. However, he’s looking to help build the reputation of Oregon’s finest program with a solid sophomore campaign. With playing time, Smith could surprise.
The next three days at ATQ will be jam-packed with Oregon basketball prep, including player profiles, predictions, previews, interviews, breakdowns and a few history lessons. Every day, we will have something new as we count you down to opening night.
Ready or not? Oregon basketball is set to return soon. The regular season gets underway at Matthew Knight Arena on Friday against Coppin State. You can catch opening night on the Pac-12 Network at 9:00 p.m. local time.