LaRon Smith (above) is Horace Spencer's backup.
Transferring to Auburn from Bethune-Cookman over the summer and scoring seven points with seven rebounds in Friday’s win over North Florida, the 6-8, 215-pounder played his first two collegiate basketball seasons in Atlanta at Georgia State. Facing them for the first time, Smith said he’s looking forward to the experience.
“It means a lot,” Smith said. “It is a great opportunity to get to play against the first school I went to. I had a lot of hard times at that school, but I am glad that I overcame it and it should be a very good game and very fun for me.”
A team that made a run in the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago under Coach Ron Hunter, Smith said this group of Panthers will present a challenge for this young Auburn team early in the season.
“What makes them such a good program is Coach Hunter’s defense,” Smith said. “He is strict on that. You have to know exactly where you have to be and who you have to guard. They do personnel very well. I felt like Coach Hunter’s son (R.J. Hunter) made that program get to where it is right now.”
For Smith the goal is to help this Auburn program get back to among the elite in the Southeastern Conference. His numbers in the opener are right on par with what he did last season at Bethune-Cookman when he averaged 7.1 points and 6.9 rebounds for the Wildcats, but Smith said he feels like he can do even better than he did in the opener.
“I feel like I was just getting back into the groove,” he said. “I don’t think I played too well. I am capable of doing way more than what I showed the first game. Hopefully, this game I pick it back up and get back to how I usually am.”
Trouncing Thomas University 111-69 in its opener, Georgia State is a team loaded with veterans and many of them transfers. With a feel for big-time basketball and plenty of talent, Smith said the Tigers can expect a big challenge.
“For them, this is a very big game,” Smith said. “When you are in that level, you look forward to this type of game. These are the games that you hope you catch a high major sleeping. You try and come in and win and go very hard.”