Knights’ Smith termed ‘explosive’ by coach
CLOVERDALE — After leading his team to its fourth consecutive sectional title last weekend, Northeastern senior guard Tyler Smith is ready to help his team make the next step.
The first step in that journey is at 10 a.m. Saturday against Cloverdale in the opening game of the Greenfield-Central Regional.
Smith, who is the state’s ninth-leading scorer at 24.8 points per game, is described by coach Brent Ross as “explosive” and difficult to guard with his wide skill set.
“He’s just an unbelievable athlete,” Ross said. “You’re not going to see another six-foot guard who can jump like him and get to the rim the way he can.”
Ross noted that Smith had four dunks in five of the team’s first six games this season.
“He’s explosive, that’s the best way to put it,” he said. “His scoring average could have been higher, but he’s done everything that I’ve asked him to do in terms of getting these younger kids involved.”
Smith also averages team-high totals of 6.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
“He’s by far our all-time assist leader,” Ross said. “He’s a tremendous passer as well.”
Smith bypassed Division I offers from Ball State, IUPUI, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Fort Wayne to sign with Division II Florida Southern, which Ross notes won the national championship two years ago and is a solid program.
“He liked the Division I schools who were interested in him, but the best chance for him to step in and play right away was at Florida Southern,” Ross said. “He really liked the coaches and the faculty and a few alumni. He likes coach [Mike] Donnelly and staff, and I think he’ll do very well there.”
Ross noted that Donnelly is flying to Indiana on Friday to watch his future recruit play.
“It will be nice to have coach Donnelly here to support him,” Ross added. “He’s going to a quality place.”
Cloverdale’s Cooper Neese reached out to Smith during last season, and feels he easily could have been a Division I player.
“His best thing is to get people in foul trouble and draw ‘and-ones’ by going to the basket,” Neese said. “He’s not really tall, but he can dunk easily and is extremely athletic.”
Smith had 41 points last year against the Clovers on 14 of 22 shooting that included 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
“We didn’t think he could shoot that well from the outside, but he can,” Neese said.
The Knights have two other double-figure scorers in 6-5 senior guard Nate Reynolds (11.2) and 6-6 junior forward Freeman Brou (10.6), but combined they do not match the 27.3 points per game of Cloverdale’s Jalen Moore (fourth in state).
Moore had 25 points in last year’s game, while Neese led the team with 35.
He is looking forward to the opportunity to play against Smith again.
“The key is to slow him down and make him shoot,” Moore said. “We have to slow him down in transition and not let him get to the basket. He’s a strong, physical player.”
Moore said he feels he is as quick as Smith, but isn’t as strong physically.
“I think I have a better outside shot than him,” he said, “but he can make shots too. Overall I think we’re two good players.”
Cloverdale coach Patrick Rady remembers Smith all too well from last year, and hopes to slow him down this time around.
“He’s more like Jalen than Cooper, that’s for sure,” he said. “We’re going to use those two guys to play Smith’s role in practice.
“He’s an outstanding player, and we’re definitely going to have to keep him under control.”