The 2019-20 Indiana University men’s basketball season is right around the corner. To help get you ready, The Daily Hoosier is profiling every player on the 2019-20 IU roster. You can see all of our player profiles in one place here. If you are looking for the 2019-20 IU basketball schedule, you can find that here.
No one saw more highs and lows during the 2018-19 season than Justin Smith.
The Illinois native locked down Penn State’s Lamar Stevens, of course had a slew of highlight reel dunks, and he was Michigan State’s worst nightmare — twice.
Smith’s struggles were well documented as well, including a perimeter shot that failed him and rebounding numbers that at times left a lot to be desired.
Because he has played in every game during his first two years, it is easy to forget that Smith is just now entering his junior season.
Smith’s elite abilities bring high expectations, and the 6-foot-7 forward still has two more years to put it all together and deliver for Indiana.
- Height: 6-foot-7
- Weight: 230
- Position: Forward
- Class: Junior
- Hometown: Buffalo Grove, Illinois
- High School: Stevenson
- Minutes per game: 24.7
- Points per game: 8.2
- Rebounds per game: 4.5
- Assists per game: .8
- Steals per game: .6
- Blocks per game: .4
- FG%: 49.6%
- 3FG%: 21.9%
- FT%: 51.4%
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
Archie Miler on Smith as a defender:
“Justin Smith is an integral part of our defenses. To me, he’s as capable a defender as there is in college. He’s as good as it gets in terms of talent and athleticism. When his mind is right and he’s really focused, to me he will be one of the better defenders in the Big 10.”
Miller on Smith on offense:
“He’s gotta play to his strengths. He’s gotta get out in transition which means he’s gotta run hard. He’s gotta attack the glass, which when he does really impacts the game. He’s gotta try to be who he is.”
Smith on where he expects to improve this year:
“Shooting, dribbling, rebounding, and defensively. I think those would be the four main aspects that I will be better at this year than I was last year.”
WHAT 2019-20 SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE
As he stated above, Smith is focused on improving in a number of areas. But are they the right areas?
Miller believes that Smith needs to accentuate his best attributes rather than trying to become someone he is not.
“If Justin’s defending the other team’s most versatile player, if he’s hammering the offensive glass, if he’s finishing in transition, if he’s a live body getting to the foul line, that’s what he’s got to value,” Miller said at the Big Ten media day.
Conversely, if Smith, or any player for that matter, is focused on the wrong areas, Miller believe he could become a detriment.
“Sometimes so much of what you value is what you think you should be valuing, and at the end of the day, that impedes winning. When he (Smith) impacts winning and he sees how that happens, that’s what he has to be consumed with.”
So what does all of that mean? Should Smith abandon his shot altogether?
Not necessarily, but Miller did add that Smith needs to find a way to keep defenses honest. His inability to do that last year played a major part in IU’s struggles offensively as Smith’s man would frequently sag off into the paint and force the Hoosiers to become something they were not — a three-point shooting team.
All indications are that Indiana is going to have much more movement in their offense, and Miller added that Smith will “move all around” when IU has the ball.
Whether he becomes a better shooter or not, Smith can become a major force on this team if he always has his motor in high gear.
Consider this: Smith had six games last year with nine or more rebounds, and thirteen games with two or less. That is an example of how Smith needs to focus on what he is capable of doing at an elite level — and do it every game.
Smith said at Indiana’s media day that he needs to be more positive with himself and move on from mistakes. From the outside looking in, he does seem to fade from the picture in games if things aren’t gong well. Miller indicated that overcoming adversity is something that a guy like Smith should get better at as an upperclassman.
So what does it all mean for Smith this year? What does success look like?
It’s obviously a tough call when it comes to someone with so much potential who can at times be erratic.
How about averaging 10-12 points per game, 5-6 rebounds, improving from the three-point and foul lines, and becoming a consistent lock-down defender, all while playing with a consistently high motor and becoming a leader on the court?
That’s a lot to ask, but that kind of season would completely change the narrative on Smith.
And he has the potential to get it done.
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