Photo courtesy of Luke Smith (C’21).
By Richard Pryor
When one’s first year of college basketball ends with an Southern Athletic Association (SAA) Newcomer of the Year Award, a spot on the All-SAA Second Team, coming in second on the team with 15.2 points per game, and having 4.5 rebounds per game on a 14-11 team, how much room is there for improvement? If you’re Luke Smith (C’21), there’s a good deal.
The sophomore hailing from Knoxville has stepped into his own this season, leading the team with 20.1 points per game, leading the team in minutes and assists, and despite being a guard, being one of five players (and the only guard) with a total of rebounds per game over 4. Additionally, Smith is one of only two players, alongside Berry’s Elijah Hirsh to receive the award of SAA Men’s Basketball Player of the Week twice so far. Smith also leads the SAA in points and is a clear front-runner for SAA Player of the Year, alongside Hirsh.
What is the most amazing about Smith’s ascension this season is that it wasn’t expected. While his freshman season was quite good, it was expected (and I said as much in this column) that Adrian Thomas (C’20) would grow from his outstanding sophomore season where he received multiple All-South team positions and the award of SAA Player of the Year. However, Thomas has missed multiple games this season, only playing in 7 out of the team’s 19 games so far.
As such, Smith has been able to grow and alongside reigning SAA Defensive Player of the Year Cam Caldwell (C’19), forms a leading duo good enough to scare any competitors, leading their team to a 15-4 record. With Smith at the helm, this could finally be the season the Tigers progress to post-season play.