Manhattan basketball continued its decline this week when news broke that sophomore guard Chris Smith had decided to transfer. Smith is the third Jasper to transfer since Barry Rohrssen replaced Bobby Gonzalez as head coach in 2006.
In December of 2007, Jasper fans were thrilled to hear that Smith would be joining the men's basketball team that month. Originally signed to play his college basketball at Seton Hall, Smith was ruled ineligible.
Rohrssen seized the opportunity to sign a potentially prolific scorer, and Smith donned the Jaspers' home uniform for the first time on Dec. 21 against Pepperdine.
Wearing No. 2, Smith showed that he was not afraid to lead the offense. It only took him two games before he enhanced the Jaspers' languid set. As a freshman, Smith averaged 9.9 points per game. This past season, the sophomore's scoring average jumped up three-and-a-half points.
Smith's nightly offensive game played a huge role in the Jaspers' ability to win. In games when Smith scored above his average, the Jaspers were 11-6. Smith's lowest point total in a Jasper win was seven, but he made up for his poor shooting by grabbing 10 rebounds.
"Poor shooting" was consistently found in the same sentence as "Chris Smith." The 6'3" shooting guard thought he was a shooter from day one, but he only connected on 40 of 139 threes over the course of the season.
His true talent was displayed when he put the ball on the floor and drove to the hoop. Stats for high-percentage shots are not available, but Smith had a high conversion rate on layups and shots in the paint. Occasionally, Smith would throw down a thunderous dunk that would ignite the home crowd.
His leaping skills and scoring ability gave Manhattan a much needed spark on the offensive end, but one could tell from the minute he stepped into Draddy Gym that he was the kind of player who would let his family's basketball history make him selfish and cocky—Smith's older brother, J.R., is a high-flying sharpshooter on the Denver Nuggets.
Ah, now it all comes together. Chris was trying to live up to the bar that J.R. set. Maybe that explains why Chris was determined to prove that he could shoot the deep ball even though it was not his forte. Maybe that explains why he thought he was "the man" upon arrival.
Maybe he was a selfish player because he thought he belonged in the NBA.
Smith is not living within his own shoes. He thinks he is better than he is because of his older brother.
There is a rumor that Smith is leaning towards transferring to Louisville. I can't imagine this rumor being true because Rick Pitino does not tolerate players who don't demonstrate a defensive presence.
Smith is always so concerned with himself that he forgets about playing defense. His attitude changed towards the end of the season, when he realized that playing defense leads to wins, but nonetheless, his defense was far from the level that Pitino demands.
Forget defense, though.
Smith's offense, his strength, is not close to Big East level. His season high in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game was a meager 19 points—a MAAC scorer who plans on transferring to the Big East needs to show that he can dominate his league, consistently pouring in over 20 points against the mediocre competition.
Smith is making a mistake. He's simply not good enough to play at a level much higher than the MAAC.
Maybe, if he wants to go to a well-known program, Memphis would be realistic. The Tigers are losing lots of players because of John Calipari's departure, so there might be a spot open for Smith. Conference USA is a step above the MAAC, but Smith has the ability to play well in that league.
The Big East is a huge stretch—Smith would be lucky to get to participate in layup lines.
It's sad that Smith is letting his brother's success distort his judgment. On the court, Smith always thought of himself first—never about his teammates.
Manhattan is a basketball program that is struggling, but programs have an unlimited number of years to improve. Smith only has two remaining years of college basketball.
There is a high risk that comes with transferring—if things don't work out, Smith has no option other than sticking it out. This time, it would actually be appropriate for Smith to think about himself.
If it's not too late, he should tear up his release papers and come back to Riverdale, where his college career will not be in jeopardy.
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