Miss you, David Lighty. For four years (which in this day and age of college basketball is virtually unheard of), Lighty was the absolute consummate program guy: a legit stopper defensively, an offensive supporting star when the situation called for him to rise to it, and a venerable heart and soul of multiple Big Ten championship teams. We hadn't seen anyone truly personify a similar resume of hard hat gigs...until Lenzelle Smith Jr. showed up on campus.
Previous Season Stats: 6.8 PPG, 4.6 RBG, 2.0 APG.
A Look Back:
Lenzelle Smith often found himself responsible for making one of the opposing teams' best scoring combo guards or small forwards. This one year removed from him earning time on the court as a true frosh by virtue of his excellent defensive habits in practice. While Aaron Craft (and deservedly so I might add) gets the vast majority of the credit for being a remarkable shutdown defender, Lenzelle Smith often would body up the more physical, larger (see: taller) offensive threats for opposing teams while still not being anything remotely resembling a liability of the offensive side of the ball.
Smith first showed off his offensive pedigree in a dominant victory over then #8 (and if you recall, a rather over confident at the time) Indiana side. While the Hoosiers are unquestionably everyone's #1 to start the year, they weren't as back as they professed to be in the early part of 2012. Smith hit on 10-12 field goals (including 4-5 from 3) en route to a game high 28 points. He also pulled down 7 rebounds because he's Lenzelle Smith, damnit.
Smith turned into a dynamo on both sides of the ball at the most opportune time for the 2011-2012 Buckeyes. Against Cincinnati in an East Regional Semifinal game, Smith hit 7 of 8 shots (3 of 4 from three point range) en route to 17 points in the Buckeyes' commanding 81-66 win over the Bearcats. In the very next game against Syracuse in the East Regional Final, Smith added another 3 three's on his way to 18 points, a place on the all regional team, and helping the Buckeyes earn a spot in the Final Four.
Outlook for 2012-2013:
We already know Smith is going to start essentially every game in 2012. We know he's going to play 25-30 minutes a game, help take the stress of Ohio State's younger players, and also hit the occasional big shot (or two) when the team needs an offensive option beyond Deshaun Thomas and LaQuinton Ross. What we don't know, is how the next evolutionary step of Smith is going to look. More big offensive games? Even more prolific defensive one on one play? Smith's a year older but if he's a year better, Ohio State's already super talented back court may have just gotten even better. The one area for concern remains his freshman year to last year's over 20% drop in free throw percentage. Missed freebies killed last year's team. It'll be up to Smith and his teammates to prevent that from being a recurring theme again this year.
Best Case Scenario:
Smith cracks the vaunted 30 mpg played mark, becomes a double digit scorer, and embarrasses a few of the better scoring two's and three's in the Big Ten (and nationally). Ohio State feeds on his defensive energy as he and Aaron Craft form one of the best defensive one-two combinations in the country and the Buckeyes do conference tournament championship type things as a virtue of their astuteness.
Worst Case Scenario:
The junior struggles with unforeseen injuries and/or doesn't make any progress offensively. He continues to play strong defensive basketball, but can't recreate the end of season magic that saw him become a fast fan favorite for those not wanting to vie for Aaron Craft's fanship affection. Shannon Scott (somehow) becomes a starter as was rumored when he first committed to the Buckeyes (even in lieu of Aaron Craft's early monopolization of the one spot) and Lenzelle Smith becomes little more than a bench glue guy.