Smith excited about off-season

Please patronize our advertisers to help
keep free for everyone. Mall

Interesting, Fun companies with interesting, quality products - and the-Ozone gets a piece of the action!

Click here to return to the front page.
Established October 31, 1996
Front Page Columns and Features
Last updated: 10/08/2012 7:14 PM

Follow Brandon
on Twitter
Email Brandon
Share |

Men's Basketball
Lenzelle Smith Excited About Ohio State’s Offseason Progress
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — There seemed to be a peace about Lenzelle Smith, Jr. as he walked into the interview room. He sat down at the table with a smile on his face and was as polite, helpful and well-spoken as just about any player I have spoken to from the Ohio State men’s basketball team.

Lenzelle Smith
Photo by Jim Davidson
Lenzelle Smith

That’s saying a lot, because there have been some pretty good ones over the years, but the junior out of Zion, Ill. is both excited and focused on the opportunity to become a bigger part of Ohio State’s offensive attack this fall.

“I’ve been working hard on my offense,” he told me during our interview last month.

“Working on my ball-handling, getting to the basket. I think I got that to a pretty good point, but now it’s about being a good dead-eye shooter who can knock down shots at a high clip. I showed against Syracuse and Cincinnati I can put the ball in the basket. People are going to look for that, so when my time comes in games I have to be ready.”

Smith, who earned the starting shooting guard job last offseason, scored 17 points in Ohio State’s win over the Bearcats and 18 against Syracuse to help the Buckeyes advance to the Final Four down in New Orleans.

He had 10 points in that game against Kansas, but their second-half collapse is something that will stick with him and his teammates throughout the 2012-13 season. 

“I still have the game-log sheet from last year and I look at it from time-to-time,” Smith said sitting at the table shaking his head.

“I read the script to see what could have happened, what could have gone differently, what we should have done and what I could have done differently. It leaves a salty taste in your mouth, but there can only be one winner.”

It has been a long time since that team was Ohio State. The Buckeyes came close in 1999 and again in 2007, when Greg Oden and Mike Conley helped Thad Matta get within a win of the national championship. 

The Buckeyes would have been in that game a year ago against Kentucky had they not blown a 9-point halftime lead over Kansas in the semifinals. Ohio State’s biggest stars were the ones who struggled to close out the Jayhawks. Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft finished a combined 12-of-44 from the floor in that game, but the Buckeyes will miss having their star big man on the low block this season.

Jared Sullinger
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jared Sullinger

“Jared’s a first team All-American, so we lose a lot of fire power on offense, but it will force guys to step up even more and try to fill the role of what we need for this team instead of relying on Jared,” Smith said.

“It will help us to rely on ourselves a lot more and push ourselves to carry this team and carry the weight like we didn’t have to do last year. It’s our turn to carry the load if we want to be successful.”

A lot of guys have been waiting for that opportunity, to have the ball in their hands with the game on the line, especially Deshaun Thomas. Like Sullinger, Thomas had a decision to make about his future after last season, but unlike Sullinger, the forward out of Fort Wayne, Ind. opted to return for his junior season at Ohio State.

“Deshaun is Deshaun. Everybody knows he’s going to shoot it, but he’s gotten in better shape. He’s faster. He runs a little more,” Smith said of the 6-7 junior.

“He’s Deshaun, he makes shots. He shoots the ball at a very consistent rate. People complain that he might shoot too much, but on this team, we need it. More times than not, when we pass the ball to Deshaun and the shot goes up, it’s lets run back on defense because he scored.”

Deshaun Thomas
Photo by Jim Davidson
Deshaun Thomas

Thomas averaged nearly 16 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season as a sophomore, despite playing alongside both Sullinger and William Buford. He was one of the most dynamic scorers in the NCAA Tournament, right up until his foul-plagued game against Kansas in the Final Four.

With Sullinger and Buford gone, there might be some concern that Thomas will turn into even more of a chucker on offense, despite the fact he is going to draw more attention from opposing defenses.

“Whether people know it or not, when he wants to he can pass the ball,” Smith said with a smile.

“When he wants to. I think that’s going to come in handy for him this year because people are going to give him some of that same attention they did Jared this year. Last year with Jared, when people sent single coverage at him he got buckets at will, but when they doubled him, he kicked it out to me, Deshaun, Will or Aaron and we got the win that way.”

Thomas and Smith join Craft as the three returning starters for Ohio State this fall. Sophomore Sam Thompson, who became the team’s de facto sixth man last year, would likely be the other wing who slides in to the starting lineup to replace Buford, but everyone is waiting to see what LaQuinton Ross can bring to the equation.

LaQuinton Ross
Photo by Jim Davidson
LaQuinton Ross

That includes Lenzelle Smith.

“He’s a 6-9 wing who can put the ball on the floor as well as anybody on this team and he can shoot the ball,” he said of Ross.

“That’s a no-brainer. He’s going to be on the floor, he’s going to play and he’s going to be out there. That’s a simple thing.”

Ross’ path to the OSU bench has been well-documented already, leading some to question whether he is as good as advertised. He was not a part of Matta’s rotation as a freshman last year, but that could change in a big way if he has matured over the offseason.

“I’ve played with him and watched him get better as a player through these workouts and training,” Smith said.

“It’s a motor thing with him. When he gets that mentality of ‘I cant be stopped,’ and puts it together with a high motor, I think he’ll be as good as any other wing in the country.

“He’s 6-9 and can handle the ball. It makes him a tough matchup for smaller guys because he can post them up, and for bigger guys who cant move their feet as well, it’s going to be a nightmare for them,” Smith continued.

“He can put the ball through his legs, behind his back and spin in the same move while keeping the ball at the right level to get it to the basket without a problem. Him staying level-headed will be the main thing for him, staying grounded and humble and wanting to be a team-type guy will be the challenge for him.”

Amir Williams
Photo by Jim Davidson
Amir Williams

The same could be said for Amir Williams, another sophomore who could have a big role for the Buckeyes this fall.

“He’s one of those guys, when he’s out there and he’s smoking and rolling, everything’s good,” Smith said of the 6-11 big man out of Michigan. 

“He does have those times where he doesn’t feel like it or he just gets tired sometimes. Right now, that’s what this is all about, preseason. It’s about getting that out of his mind, you can’t be tired at this level if you want to be good. It’s bigger than you. You can’t be tired, you have to do it for the team.”

While the Buckeyes don’t play a game until November, they have been working and gelling together in the gym basically since they got back from New Orleans. Craft missed some time following foot surgery, but he’s been back for a while and the Buckeyes are trying to build he kind of chemistry it takes to get back to that level this season.

“A lot of people tend to think when practice starts, that’s when you get ready for the season, but around here, the offseason really counts,” Smith said.

“This is when you start, especially for new guys, this is when you start to come together and gain trust in one another; basically become a team. The more you work out with guys and see them struggling like you or you can depend on them to lift you up when you’re down or you’re tired and don’t want to run.

“The stuff that makes you stick together and want to play with each other. Once you get on the court, it’s too late to build a team them. It’s five against five and the team who has the best team at that moment usually wins the game.”

Donate by Check :

Ozone Communications
1380 King Avenue
Columbus, Ohio

Help us bring you more Buckeye coverage. Donate to the-Ozone.

Click here to email this the-Ozone feature to a friend...or even a foe.

(c) 2010 The O-Zone, O-Zone Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, rebroadcast,rewritten, or redistributed.

Click here to return to the front page.

Front Page Columns and Features