Smith Enjoys Down Time At TOC

For those of you with a more morbid sense of humor, Nolan Smith is now a true Blue Devil. That's because the Duke bound combo guard has, like so many before him, been forced to the sideline with an injury which prevents him from competing this weekend on his future home court.

"It's tough sitting out this weekend, because I was really looking forward to playing and playing well in Cameron," said DC Assault combo guard Nolan Smith. "But, it's better for me to go ahead and take some time off and rehab to get back to 100 percent."

Smith, who has been nursing a sprained ACL for the better part of the last month, says he should be ready to go when he attends tryouts for the U-18 National team in mid-June.

"That's something I really want to do, and there's no point to rush anything as far as rehabbing goes. But it certainly doesn't make it any easier sitting out and watching my team play."

Smith put in a solid showing as a junior after transferring to basketball powerhouse Oak Hill Academy and playing behind North Carolina bound Tywon Lawson. After Smith made it official for the Blue Devils earlier this year, the rivalry between the two began to pick up immediately.

"At open gym and workouts, he'd always be talking to me. His nickname for him is little Duke. I could be on the other side of the court and he'd call me out with something like ‘come on little Duke, let's go.' It's a lot of fun to have that kind of thing going on. I think when we meet up in a couple of years I'll be a different player than he remembers and it'll be a good match up."

The transfer to Oak Hill also afforded the Duke bound Smith a chance to refocus himself on what he was trying to accomplish.

"With Oak Hill you really have to focus yourself or they will do it for you. The level of competition there is so much greater than you'll find anywhere else in the country. You have to focus totally on basketball and school. But it really does pay off and you really do become a much more focused player."

Without being able to take the court this Memorial Day weekend, Smith says he's had a chance to meet and talk with the Duke coaching staff, and tour the campus much more thoroughly.

"That's been really nice. I mean now that the recruiting process is behind them and me, we can just start building the kind of relationship I want to have with my coaching staff in college. That's why I picked Duke in the first place. They made me feel comfortable. This weekend I've already been able to get a better feel of what this place is like, and I love it."

Another experience has been getting to know head Coach Mike Krzyzewski away from the sidelines. Something that Smith was a bit surprised by,

"A lot of people only know Coach K by what they see on TV. There he's this really intense and really fiery coach who is always demanding his players give him everything they have. That's only part of who he is. People should know that Coach K is really a jokester and a funny guy."

An example of K's humor?

"I walked into his office the other night and started talking to him. I was in street clothes and he stopped me mid-sentence and starting joking me on my shirt. He's a funny guy, and he takes jokes as well as he gives them."

Often when a player is being recruited, he gets tagged with a comparison to a former Blue Devil as more of a roadmap of what he may become. That's certainly the case with Smith, who is very comfortable with the comparison he's been shown.

"They think I can come in and be a lot like Johnny Dawkins was. Right now I'm going in to play the two-guard role while being able to slide over and take the one. Greg Paulus will still be there when I arrive and he's the point guard, but he can't play every minute of every game, so they need a guy like me to be able to slide over and help out."

That combo role will be something he assumes this year at Oak Hill as well, even with the loss of Lawson.

"I'm still going to be the two guard this year. We're getting Brandon Jennings to come in here and that will allow me to run on the wing like I will in college. I need to work on becoming a more consistent player with my perimeter shot to keep defenses honest with me. I think I'll have that down by the time next fall gets here."

The final role Smith is filling this weekend is that of recruiter for his AAU running mate, Julian Vaughn. The 6-foot-10 big man has already visited Duke this weekend, and has become a big time target of the Blue Devils' coaching staff.

"I tell him every now and again that I'd love to play with him in college. I'd love to get Mike Beasley to come in with us, but he's going to go off and do his own thing. It would really help to take a friend to college with me, and Julian is that guy. I think he knows that he has a chance to play for Duke, but he has to go out and earn his offer. I'm doing all I can to work with him and help him end up where he wants to be."

Smith will be back in game action within the next two weeks after receiving final clearance from his doctor.

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