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Mr. Smith arrives: Molloy guard flourishes at start of junior year

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After blossoming in the second half of the AAU season, the junior on the Archbishop Molloy boys' basketball team is ready to prove he's an elite guard in the CHSAA. "Every game, especially this season, I want to go out on a bang," Smith said. "If that means me scoring 0 points and seven assists or if I have to score 40 in two quarters, then I have to do it and I understand that."Smith has already backed up the big talk, scoring 36 points in a non-league win against Long Island Lutheran and being named MVP of the Aviator Christmas tournament.He's a scoring point guard, but Molloy coach Jack Curran thinks Smith is probably better suited playing off the ball, with Malik Dean running the point. "He's physically stronger, he can create, handle," Curran said. "He's got a great handle and he sees the whole floor. If guys run, they'll get the ball. He'll make everybody better."Curran said Smith has made a huge leap from his sophomore year, when he played behind the Stanners more experienced guards. "We had a lot of seniors last year and he had to wait his turn," Curran said.Smith worked hard during the summer, improving all aspects of his game and getting stronger in the process by running on the beach and hitting the weight room. The 6-foot guard from Williamsburg was on the bench again at the start of the AAU season, but because of player movement and injuries, Smith finally got his chance and ran with it. He helped lead a stacked Gauchos team to the title of the prestigious Peach Jam tournament.College coaches began to notice."As a sophomore, you could count on one hand," Smith said of the college suitors. "Now, I'd probably need like four or five hands."In those hands, he'd include Pac 10, Big East and MAAC schools, including St. John's, Rutgers and Manhattan.Smith is just the latest in a long line of premier guards to play at Molloy. That lineage includes Georgia's Sundiata Gaines and former NBA standouts Kenny Anderson and Kenny Smith (no relation). Being in that fraternity has had its advantages for Smith."[Curran] talks to me about Kenny Smith, about how he improved from junior to senior year, how he went from D-II to D-I and North Carolina," Smith said. "I have spoken with Kenny Anderson numerous times."After opening eyes during the summer, Smith is ready to take the CHSAA by storm. There's a plethora of stellar guards, all going to Division I programs, including Christ the King's Erving Walker (Florida), Darryl Bryant (West Virginia) from St. Raymond's, Holy Cross' Sylven Landesberg (Virginia) and Rice's Kemba Walker (UConn), who Smith has played with since fifth grade. That challenge begins Friday when Molloy plays at St. Ray's."I didn't play much last year, but I understood my role on the team, to come off the bench and when it was my time, I responded," Smith said. "This year, I'm going to respond for 32 minutes."

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