LAWRENCE, Kan. — In his team’s biggest game of the season to date, Georgetown center Joshua Smith showed that he’s still not the player he needs to be in order to make the Hoyas a force in March. After a few minutes of inspired play to begin the game, he was a non-factor the rest of the way as the Jayhawks blew out Georgetown, 86-64 , in Allen Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon.
Smith’s day started off well enough. He hit the game’s first bucket on a reverse layup after sealing off Kansas center Joel Embiid. The next trip down the court, Smith posted up Embiid again, this time hitting a cutting Nate Lubick for a running layup. Two possessions later, Smith hit another layup.
But as followers of college basketball have seen from Smith all too often throughout his college career, sustaining a high level of production remains a challenge for the UCLA transfer.
Aside from a technical foul for elbowing Kansas forward Tarik Black, Smith did little of consequence for the remainder of the game. Kansas adjusted in the first half, guarding Smith closer and daring Georgetown’s limited defense to make the stops needed to topple the Jayhawks on their home court. Smith fouled out in 19 minutes of action after scoring just five points and failing to corral a single rebound or block a shot.
When asked whether Smith’s struggles stemmed from a lack of activity, failing to make the secondary adjustment after Kansas’ athletic front line paid closer attention, or simply being in the wrong places at the wrong times, Georgetown head coach John Thompson III was short but direct: “All of the above.”
On the other end, Embiid’s effort, where he scored 17 points on just four shots and added eight rebounds, illuminated the stark contrast between where he is as an NBA prospect right now and where Smith was on December 2, 2010, when he was a freshman matchup nightmare for Marcus and Markieff Morris — current NBA regulars — on his way to a 17-point, 13-rebound performance for UCLA on the very same court.
It’s worth noting that at similar stages of their careers, Embiid is a very different prospect than Smith was. Embiid has turned scouts’ heads all season long with a wide-ranging skill set while Smith has relied on his size, brute force and a soft touch around the bucket. “Josh was a load and he couldn’t guard him [that day],” Kansas head coach Bill Self recalled. “Joel isn’t like that at all. Joel is efficient and he can affect the game in so many ways. He’s not our best passer, but he’s not far off.”
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It’s still possible for Smith to become an effective weapon for the Hoyas. Aside from Saturday’s performance, he’s been just that as of late. He came into Lawrence averaging 14.5 points per game in 21 minutes per contest over Georgetown’s last six outings, but his prospect shine wore off long ago as he struggled with conditioning and foul trouble and he’ll be tested by stronger front lines when the Hoyas start Big East play.
For Embiid, however, his pro potential remains virtually unlimited. His footwork is advanced, he gets out in transition, and he’s been a sponge in practice and film review sessions, according to Self. “He’s as bright as anybody we have on our team with picking stuff up and reading things.”
While Smith continues to toil, Embiid has matured into a nightmare on both ends for opposing coaches and he’s in one of the best collegiate programs for developing NBA big men. Embiid still isn’t a finished product, but his performance on Saturday demonstrated the difference between his accelerating development and Smith’s stunted growth.
(Brian Goodman is a columnist for Rush The Court ‘s Big 12 microsite, featuring news, commentary and analysis on Big 12 basketball )
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Contrast between center prospects highlights Kansas’ drubbing of Georgetown – SportingNews.com
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