HSOT Takeout: Junior Smith

RALEIGH, N.C. -- When Seventh Woods unleashed his scoring spree on Thursday night, pouring in 42 points and hitting seven consecutive threes, almost no room existed on the stage for Smith.

But lost in Woods' exploits in a head to head matchup was this fact: Junior Smith actually played better versus Woods than Woods himself played last weekend at the Chick-Fil-A Classic.

That's why you have to watch players in multiple games, at multiple events, and some regional scouts continue to believe that Smith ultimately may project as a superior prospect to Woods. I'll disclose that I shade toward Woods due to his transcendent athleticism, but Smith certainly belongs in the national rankings and may push for five star status himself.

Smith is a true point guard. Of the three sophomores to take the court last night — along with Woods and high-major teammate Kwe Parker — Smith is the only one of the three for whom that is true. Some of his best moments occurred as a passer, when he threw several perfect lobs to athletic Trinity Christian teammates (including ultra-springy Parker).

He also is the best of the three at creating passing angles off the dribble and seeing the entire court. Having said that, he's a natural point guard but still a developing one, due to the decision-making errors that are common for young floor generals.

He also made explosive plays of his own driving the baseline and leaping off two feet for powerful slams, and his tip-dunk of a miss drew as loud a reaction as anything Woods authored.

If you were looking to adopt a more critical point of view, Smith didn't seem eager during the first half to challenge his more heralded opponent off the dribble. He's a good handler but not a great one, at least for the time being, though he did appear more comfortable in the second half and began to attack off the bounce more assertively.

As for his shooting, Smith has some touch, if not perfect form. He has excess motion in his shot that he'd be well-advised to reduce or eliminate, if possible, yet he knocks in some threes and pull-up jumpers as well. There's hope for him to become a consistent deep weapon, even if he isn't one now.

He certainly needs to improve his defensive effort and technique, but I express that sentiment between 500-1,000 times each calendar year. It's endemic among young players and always has been.

Bottom line: Despite Woods' sensational antics last night, Smith nevertheless managed to improve his reputation. That's an extremely impressive feat given the circumstances, and it speaks boldly to Smith's talent and long-term promise.

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