College coaches don’t ever come right out and say that Braden Smith’s size has been a concern.
But for a sophomore point guard to average 18.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game and have no Division One offers despite playing against strong central Indiana competition — there has to be a story.
His parents think they know what has been going on.
“You’d be crazy to think his size has not been a factor,” his mother Ginny Smith told The Daily Hoosier. “I think Braden is on people’s list, but he has always been a wildcard because of his size.”
Braden is on Indiana’s list. He was invited down to Bloomington for IU’s win over Penn State on Feb. 23.
If anyone can relate to the size concerns that Smith has faced to this point it is IU head coach Archie Miller. Playing at around 5-foot-9, Miller wasn’t a highly rated recruit but carved-out a solid college career at North Carolina State.
Miller’s message to Braden in the IU locker room after the game was memorable.
‘I don’t give a &%# how big you are. If you can play I’m gonna get you.’
“Those were his exact words,” Braden’s father Dustin Smith recalled.
Braden Smith can play.
Beyond the numbers, Braden looks the part of a true point guard. He has great vision on the court, and he delivers the ball on time and on point.
And he is a shot maker too. For his high school career Braden has made 42 percent of his shots from long range, and 84 percent from the free throw line.
Those are the kind of shooting numbers that scream gym rat, and that is exactly who Braden is. With his mom the head girls basketball coach at Westfield and dad the program director of Grand Park Premier and an AAU coach, gym access is not a problem.
As it turns out, the size thing is becoming less of a problem too.
Playing for Westfield High School in the north suburbs of Indianapolis, Braden was listed at 5-foot-10 at the start of the 2019-20 season.
He’s now an even 6-foot according to his parents, and with dad at 6-foot-3 and mom 5-foot-8, Braden likely isn’t finished growing.
Although he is getting bigger, Braden knows that he is never going to be tall for a point guard.
That’s why he has been using that gym access to attack a potential weakness.
“He has really been working on being more crafty around the rim,” Ginny Smith said. “Floaters, being able to shoot over bigger guys and those kind of things.”
Braden has also been working on the aspect of his size that is within his control.
Working out at his strength and conditioning coach’s makeshift garage gym, Braden has added 17 pounds to his frame over the last three months.
“People are going to be surprised for sure when they see him,” Dustin said.
Part of the secret to helping Braden pack on a few pounds has been the pandemic.
Ironically, it has taken a lack of regular full court basketball to help Braden address one of his basketball deficiencies.
“From a physical and an athletic standpoint, this (the pandemic) has actually been a blessing for him to not have as much daily cardio because he’s the kind of kid that just never stops moving,” Ginny Smith said. “He’s been able to add some weight and muscle.”
With basketball returning in Indiana, Braden will have to find a way to retain his added mass. He’s already finding a supportive voice from the IU family.
Invited down to Greenwood, Ind. for recent pick-up games that included Trayce Jackson-Davis and Armaan Franklin, Braden found a former Hoosier there that could relate to the size questions. Another gym rat.
“He (Braden) said Jordan Hulls was really awesome,” Dustin Smith said. “He gave him a few pointers and talked to him about things. He said he came from the same place as Braden, as a smaller guard that could shoot it, and is a winner.”
Hulls knows the frustration of being doubted. Around Smith’s age the former IU guard was sending highlight reels to college coaches and just hoping to get noticed.
Getting noticed hasn’t been a problem for Braden.
Belmont, Loyola (Chicago), and Ball State have been regularly involved, and several other programs have reached out.
Miller and the IU staff have been in contact once a week.
The message from everyone right now is that they want to see Braden play live.
Obviously that has been impossible over the last few months.
But with added height and weight, those are still months that have been good to Braden.
Eventually the coaches will see him play.
And if he can play?
Well, you know how Miller feels about that.
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