VAUGHT: Smith on Rondo

Last summer Saul Smith got a chance to play against Kentucky's players, including incoming freshman point guard Rajon Rondo.

Last summer Saul Smith got a chance to play against Kentucky's players, including incoming freshman point guard Rajon Rondo.

Smith, now an assistant coach at Tennessee Tech, knows what it takes to play point guard at Kentucky for his father, Tubby Smith, since he did it for four years.

"During the summer that was the biggest question mark. I wanted to see how he would respond. I wanted to see how he would handle getting knocked around, getting yelled out, or having a bad game and having the papers write bad about you," Saul Smith said. "Young guys struggle with those things. But he did a great job.

"Everybody knew he was talented from day one. It was just a matter of whether he could deal with playing at the University of Kentucky and being the focal point and leader of the team at point guard. It's not easy to do, especially as a freshman."

Rondo finished the season averaging 8.1 points, 3.4 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game. He had a school-record 87 steals.

More importantly, he seemed to gain Tubby Smith's trust early and the freshman guard and veteran coach appeared to be in sync all season.

So did Rondo adapt that quickly to Tubby Smith's system or was the coach a little more patient and lenient with his talented point guard than he has been with some players?

"I think it was a combination of the two," Saul Smith said. "Most coaches want a lot from their point guard because he is supposed to be an extension of the coach. You are a leader on the floor. You are the vocal leader. Your job is to get everyone to the right spot at the right time.

"It's the hardest position on the team to learn. Being a shooting guard is pretty easy. Your job is to shoot and score. That's it. Put it in the hole. As point guard, you have to get all the players involved on both ends. Coach Smith's patience with him was a big factor in his success, but also a big part was that Rondo stepped up and took that role."

Which is why what Rondo and Smith learned about each other this year will be so valuable next season when the Cats try to get back to that elusive Final Four.


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