As his first season with Georgia Tech is nearing the end, guard Deivon Smith is increasingly showing his capacity to impact games.
In the past five games for the Yellow Jackets, Smith is averaging 8.6 points, 5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1 steal and 1.6 turnovers in 20.6 minutes coming off the bench. He has also made 65.4% of his 2-point field-goal attempts (17-for-26). Tech plays at home against N.C. State on Tuesday night in a matchup of the ACC’s 14th-place team (Tech) and its last-place team (the Wolfpack).
Smith sees the progress as a result of his familiarization with the team in his first season after transferring from Mississippi State.
“Earlier in the year, I was trying to get some chemistry with the guys, get balanced within the offense and find myself,” he said. “But late here in the season, I feel like I’m finding myself, and it’s helping our team.”
The biggest change in recent games for Smith is in rebounding (he was averaging 3.2 rebounds per game prior to the past five games) and shooting (37.5% on 36-for-96 shooting inside the 3-point arc until the past five games).
Smith’s scoring hasn’t only been done close to the basket. He was 4-for-5 in the Jackets’ loss Saturday at Virginia, scoring on a layup, a putback, a pullup jumper beyond the free-throw line and another jump shot with his foot on the 3-point arc.
“I’ve always been able to get to my spots,” Smith said. “I just feel like I got caught up in being such a pass-first point guard that I forgot to look at the rim sometimes and look for myself. So it’s just all about getting to my spots and having confidence and taking that shot.”
“Earlier in the year, I was trying to get some chemistry with the guys, get balanced within the offense and find myself. But late here in the season, I feel like I'm finding myself, and it's helping our team."
In ACC play, mostly coming off the bench, Smith has nearly matched forward Jordan Usher (the team’s leading rebounder) in rebounds per minute and leads the team in assists per minute. If his per-minute averages were extrapolated to 30 minutes per game (he averages 17.7 minutes per game in ACC games), he would average 11.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists (and 3.1 turnovers) per game.
Smith’s efficiency as a scorer, both on jump shots and drives to the basket, suggests that he could eventually step in to the lead roles that guard Michael Devoe and Usher have had this season. It’s a void he’d probably like to fill next season when both move on (Usher for certain and Devoe likely so). For now, he’ll continue as an energy-giving sixth man.
“Just being able to fit in with the guys being able to be that spark off the bench, I’ve accepted the role,” he said. “Of course, anybody wants to start, but I just want to come in and win games.”
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