Junior guard Shaun Smith is finally healthy, according to Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray, something he hasn’t been able to say for the majority of his career as a Bulldog.
“He’s fully cleared,” Ray said. “There are no hang-ups, no problems at all from our medical staff or training staff. He has full clearance to go out and play basketball.”
Between transfers, signees, heightened expectations for Jalen Steele and Wendell Lewis, a new coaching staff and anticipation for the debut of Latvian forward Kristers Zeidaks, it’s easy, and probably understandable, for Smith to be lost in the shuffle.
However, Ray has important plans for the 6’,6” guard, so long as he can get back into game shape.
“He’s probably in the same boat as Kristers, as far as not having a flavor for competition, because with all the injuries he hasn’t played very much,” Ray said. “But the one thing Shaun has as a commodity is he can make shots, he can shoot the basketball. So now, what we’re trying to do, is get him to do other things beyond shoot the basketball.”
Namely, Ray needs Smith to play defense. And not just average defense, it turns out.
“At the position he’s gonna be playing, as far as being a bigger wing, he’s probably gonna be on the other team’s best player a lot. If he’s not able to defend that other guy, it’s probably not gonna be good for him as far as playing time,” Ray said. “Most of it on defense is your willingness to go out and defend. Because he has the body to do it, he has the athleticism to do it, so he should be able to go out and guard the other team’s best player.”
We haven’t seen much of Smith as various and nagging injuries have riddled his time on campus, but he was quite the scorer when he signed with MSU in the 2009 class. From his bio on HailState.com, Smith was selected to The Clarion-Ledger’s Dandy Dozen list as both a junior and senior at Noxubee County High School, where he averaged 24.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in his final season.
It seems like the natural talent is there for Smith, but his future success will depend on his ability to play competitive basketball again, both physically and mentally.