Smith the latest star in the Sweetney mold

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Craig Smith is not a LaMarcus Aldridge.

He isn't long and lanky and he doesn't change a game defensively like the now-healthy sophomore whom Rick Barnes and Texas are counting on to anchor a potential Final Four team in Austin.

What Craig Smith might be, though, is the ACC's next version of Sean May -- a highly-productive, stocky workhorse in the 6-foot-7 to 6-foot-9 mold.

"If you're any bigger [than Smith] and you've got the ability, then you're in the [NBA]," Skinner said. "... But I still don't think anyone [in college basketball this season] has the ballhandling and quickness that Craig has in the post."

Smith got a nod as a first-team All-American by the Associated Press on Tuesday, along with new ACC rival Shelden Williams of Duke, but compared to the exposure Williams receives and will continue to garner, Smith definitely is the lesser known of the two.

Smith was underrecruited out of Los Angeles. Pac-10 schools ignored him and some even thought he was simply too chubby. Smith didn't make it academically and spent a postgrad year at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts.

Three years later, Smith has scored 1,716 points and grabbed 775 rebounds.

Smith realized he could fit in and thrive at this level when he scored 47 points in a intrasquad scrimmage his freshman season. He never worried about labels or thought he couldn't be a power player because he was only 6-7.

"The guy that really started this trend was Mike Sweetney," Smith said. "He got it going at Georgetown at only 6-7, 6-8. He set it up for us and guys followed."

Smith said his quickness and ability to use his body has made the difference for him.

"I like to feel the person guarding me so I can tell what move to use, what not to use and what's not effective," Smith said.
Smith gave a mini-clinic inside the BC locker room.

"If a guy is guarding me and he's protecting my left shoulder, I want to give him a fake and have him go left thinking I'm going left, but then take a dribble to the right," Smith said. "He knows I want to go right, but then I spin and come back left with a hook. You have to be real quick and real efficient."

"He's like a Sean May type of player but he has a weird shot, it's like a floater with a hook," BC junior forward Jared Dudley said.

Skinner and Dudley said Smith's hands are what differentiate him. His ballhandling skills make him maybe the most versatile of a bunch that also includes Wake Forest's Eric Williams and Cal's Leon Powe. But it's his self-study that contributed him to being a preseason All-American selection.

Smith wasn't as patient earlier in his career. He was susceptible to double-teams and didn't react as fluidly, possibly causing turnovers. Now, he's a much more effective player in second halves because he waits to read situations in the first half.

"I know it's going to come to me," Smith said. "I know when I go over a scouting report when to be aggressive early and when not to."

Skinner, who has made a habit of unearthing hidden recruiting gems, is not surprised by Smith's breakout status.

"I always had confidence in his ability but he didn't, but now he does," said Skinner of Smith, who will have to play at least half the season without shot-blocker Sean Williams, who is sitting out a suspension. "People are going to push him a number of different ways. Great players figure out a way to be effective in all situations, and if he didn't then he wouldn't be as good a player as he is."

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.