Missing Tracy Smith

I’ve been very proud of NC State fans for not excessively harping on Tracy Smith’s absence due to a knee injury the last few weeks.  It is a testament to our fans as well as to the program because I think an inherent feeling from most is that the program has enough talent to absorb almost any personnel loss (for at least a short time).

But, I don’t know how appropriate that feeling may be.  I think that we may have collectively under-estimated how important a healthy Tracy Smith is to this team. 

Today, I wanted to re-set the table on how important Tracy is to this team and this year’s quest to reach the NCAA Tournament.  I ask that you click here for some excellent work done before the season from Rush The Court that includes more than just Tracy:

Tracy Smith (6th) – Sr, F – NC State. This is the season of great expectations in Raleigh as head coach Sidney Lowe has rounded up the nation’s fifth ranked recruiting class with power forward C.J. Leslie and guards Lorenzo Brown and Ryan Harrow bringing plenty of excitement with them to campus.  But it is Smith who is already the known entity here, and a very effective one as well. Smith averaged 16.5 PPG as a junior and did so in a consistent manner, failing to score in double figures just three times. He also pulled down over seven rebounds a night and was the team leader in a variety of other statistical categories, ranging from minutes played to fouls drawn to field goal percentage, a category in which he led the entire ACC. Smith is a 6’8, 255-pound beast, capable of overpowering defenders and dominating with his strength, but last season Smith proved himself to be more than just a power player, showing a capable face-up game, a set of polished post moves and some excellent footwork. In his senior season, with a significant infusion of talent on the Wolfpack roster, Smith should see fewer double-teams and better chances on the offensive end. His scoring average may not improve, since he’ll have to share touches with those more talented players (especially Leslie as his frontcourt running mate), but the already efficient Smith may prove even more adept at the offensive end. There are a couple areas where Smith needs to improve, however. First, while he is quite accomplished at using his skills to draw fouls and get to the line, he needs to continue to work on his stroke from the charity stripe. As a junior he improved to a 65% free-throw shooter (from just 59% as a sophomore), but given the rate at which he gets to the line, another little bump in accuracy could be huge. Second, while his 7.3 RPG ranked ninth in the ACC, Smith is capable of far more on the glass.  While he was a monster early in the season (in his first 10 games he never failed to grab less than seven rebounds), he faded late, grabbing only ten total rebounds in the Pack’s final three games and never grabbing double-digit rebounds after January 23. Smith needs to be a double-double threat on a nightly basis, a role he is perfectly capable of playing. As the accomplished veteran on a young Wolfpack team that is trying to break its NCAA Tournament drought (they last received a tournament bid in 2006, the longest such drought in the ACC), Smith will need to be not only the go-to offensive player, but also a team leader, providing an example to the younger players of the hard work that is necessary to succeed, and there is no better place for him to begin that task than cleaning the glass on a regular basis.

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10-11 Basketball

16 Responses to Missing Tracy Smith

  1. bradleyb123 12/11/2010 at 11:12 AM #

    Losing Tracy Smith is not much different than losing Russell Wilson. It changes what we do, because it changes what we CAN do. It’s one thing to lose some depth off the bench. It’s something else to lose an all-conference starter. Duke losing Kyrie Irving changes them from a national championship favorite to just another pretty solid team. One player can make all the difference in the world.

    Plus, not having Tracy probably puts added pressure on our freshmen. If he were in there, it would take a little pressure off them. And maybe they would play even better. How do you put a price tag on a player like Tracy? You really can’t.

  2. BAC79 12/11/2010 at 11:38 AM #

    Duke will do much better without Kyrie Irving than we will without Tracy Smith. Coaching makes a significant difference when you lose a starting player.

  3. LifeLongWolf 12/11/2010 at 12:03 PM #

    Maybe forcing the other players not to rely on Tracy early in the season will pay dividends at the end of the season. More experience and confidence, learning to play together, learning what to do when Tracy gets into foul trouble, etc.

    Look at what happened in 1983 when Whittenburg got hurt. I know, the comparison fails in so many ways, but…

    A guy can dream, can’t he?

  4. bigwolfpacker 12/11/2010 at 12:44 PM #

    I really think that the way CJ Leslie is coming along, he and Smith will form a great duo down low.

  5. choppack1 12/11/2010 at 1:43 PM #

    While the loss of Smith is big, it shouldn’t be impacting this team the way that it is. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for us to be 4-3 at this stage considering the competition we’ve played. However, the 2nd half vs. Georgetown, the indifferent game vs. FDU and the Wisconsin game is really what is making this stink.

    Hopefully, when Smith comes back the team will improve. However, I’m not sure how well his game fits w/ our current roster.

  6. wufpup76 12/11/2010 at 2:01 PM #

    I’m sure a lot of folks don’t want to hear it, but we are clearly a better posession, ball control team than we are a running, up tempo team – at least right now.

    It’s nice that we can run now, but we’ve been much better actually when slowing the game down so far. Either way, we need Tracy – but our halfcourt offense pretty much collapses without him.

    I’ve got no problem with style of play so long as you win.

    Going to miss the game today … bummer 🙁

  7. Gene 12/11/2010 at 2:31 PM #

    What bothers me about the loss of Tracy Smith is the fact Howell and Painter have not shown the ability to be effective in the low post.

    Maybe that will come with time and more experience, but I was really hoping one of those two could step up and become effective in the low post this year.

  8. eas 12/11/2010 at 2:59 PM #

    What channel is the game on directv?

  9. Astral Rain 12/11/2010 at 2:59 PM #

    At least the losses would be discounted some if we’re on the bubble come tourney time. I’ve been disappointed with how no one really stepped up when Tracy got hurt though.

  10. NCBP 12/11/2010 at 3:17 PM #

    Going to be interesting to see how fast he can get back into playing shape cardio wise from the knee scope and if his knee will allow him to be effective before Feb…not to mention getting back into sync with teammates on the floor.

  11. JeremyH 12/11/2010 at 4:42 PM #

    I read elsewhere someone suggesting that the TrailBlazer’s Roy coming back quickly off his knee surgery is part of the reason why he is having and will have in the future trouble with his knees. In any event, I hope our staff is cautious with T. Smith.

  12. JeremyH 12/11/2010 at 4:44 PM #

    Gene: I agree. They seem not physical enough and have trouble finishing around the rim. How is Joseph O. at that?

  13. Rick 12/11/2010 at 6:28 PM #

    “While the loss of Smith is big, it shouldn’t be impacting this team the way that it is. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for us to be 4-3 at this stage considering the competition we’ve played. However, the 2nd half vs. Georgetown, the indifferent game vs. FDU and the Wisconsin game is really what is making this stink.”


    I do not see TS making a difference with TOs and overall indifference.

  14. PoppaJohn 12/11/2010 at 6:34 PM #

    Totally agree – I expected Richard H to look a lot better than he has. I think we are learning that he’s at best a complimentary player, not somebody who’s going to carry the team. At least not as a sophomore, but TS was still a complimentary player then too.

    I say let TS sit out every game until January. Do the cardio work, get him into practices, but let that knee heal completely. When he gets back, he’ll be the difference between being last year all over again, and showing improvement.

  15. Gene 12/11/2010 at 6:46 PM #

    “At least not as a sophomore, but TS was still a complimentary player then too.”

    Smith had a knack, even as a freshman in limited minutes and as a sophomore, when he was backing up Costner and McCauley and eventually became a starter, of being able to finish shots in traffic near the basket.

    I don’t see that with Howell or Painter.

  16. [email protected] 12/12/2010 at 10:35 PM #

    Howell is light years ahead of Painter. Howell’s cardio doesn’t seem to be where it needs to be. I really hope to see Tracy and Rich playing together soon. Howell is an excellent distributor for a big. Painter has brought some great energy to the team but doesnt have much more to offer.

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