Tech Enters WAC Tourny as 5 Seed

Louisiana Tech's youth movement is led by somebody who should be a leader -- the point guard, Kenneth "Speedy" Smith.

Kenneth Smith, from St. Petersburg, Fla., is known by his nickname to the coaching staff and his teammates.

"I got my nickname when I was born," Smith said. "I came out quicker than everybody thought I would when my mom went into labor and instead of being born in the labor room, I was born in a hallway of the hospital."

Smith is currently fifth in the Western Athletic Conference in assists per game at 4.4, which is also the most by a freshman in the conference. He also nearly became the first Bulldog in program history to record a double-double with assists and rebounds against Northwestern State on Dec. 6.

On Feb. 18 against Central Arkansas, Smith had 15 assists to set a new single-game record, surpassing the previous high of 14 assists set by Bud Dean at Nicholls State on Jan. 17, 1969. Smith has a school-record 135 assists for a freshman. He also has 38 steals entering this week. He is three shy of breaking the school's freshman steals record.

When deciding on where to attend college, Smith's choices came down to Louisiana Tech, South Florida and Wofford. After his official visit to Louisiana Tech, his decision came easy. "On my visit to Ruston, Coach (Michael) White and I bonded really well," Smith said. "He basically told me how everything was really going to be if I came here. I also communicated really well with my future teammates which helped me realize that this was the place I needed to be."

NOTES, QUOTES Impressive first-year coaching job by White --Louisiana Tech first-year coach Michael White was a viable candidate for the WAC's Coach of the Year award, which went to Nevada's David Carter on Sunday, because of how he has made a young Bulldog team competitive, especially in the latter stages of the season. The Bulldogs won five consecutive games before losing the regular-season finale at Nevada on March 3. In the previous game at Fresno State, Louisiana Tech won 75-70 by coming out focused from the start.

"I thought the way we came out and made shots early, might have affected the way (Fresno State) played man tonight instead of zone defense," said White, whose team took a 39-23 lead at halftime by shooting 62.5 percent from the field. "Fresno State has the discipline and veteran guards that really sit down in stance and get after you."

--Fresno State coach Rodney Terry, also in his first season, is a believer in Louisiana Tech, which swept his team this season. "I give a lot of credit to Louisiana Tech, they came in here, they've been a hot team and have one four games in a row, we knew we had a confident team coming in," Terry said. BY THE NUMBERS: 56 -- Number of blocked shots for freshman F Michael Kyser, who is third in the WAC with 1.8 a game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Glory Road is one of my favorite movies because it showed how an integrated basketball team in the 1960s was able to come together as a unit and was able to win an NCAA Championship. The same with Remember the Titans except it was a high school football team winning the state championship." -- Louisiana Tech freshman G Kenneth Smith commenting about his two favorite movies.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL THIS WEEK'S GAMES: --vs. Utah State, WAC Tournament quarterfinals, March 8 KEY MATCHUPS: The fifth-seeded Bulldogs face No. 4 Utah State in the opening round of the WAC tournament in Las Vegas. The Aggies swept the season series from Louisiana Tech. The more experienced backcourt tandem of Utah State's Brockeith Pane and Preston Medlin proved to be difficult to handle for Louisiana Tech's young talent. Pane had six assists without a turnover and Pane 22 points in Utah State's 77-63 in Logan on Feb. 9. The neutral court in Las Vegas should benefit Louisiana Tech freshman guards Raheem Appleby and Kenneth Smith.

FUTURES MARKET: Louisiana Tech Class of 2012 signee Alex Hamilton helped Chipley High School defeat Hawthorne High School, 71-48, on March 1 in Lakeland, Fla., at The Lakeland Center to win the Florida Class 1A championship. Hamilton, a 6-foot-4-inch 180-pound guard, scored16 points on 7-of-11 shooting, dished out a game-high eight assists, grabbed a team-best six rebounds and had five steals.

PLAYER NOTES --Senior G Trevor Gaskins got into a shouting match with Nevada's Deonte Burton after they scrambled for a loose ball in Louisiana Tech's 79-69 loss on March 3. Both were assessed technical fouls but nothing escalated after that.

--Freshman G Raheem Appleby is one of four Louisiana Tech players who is averaging double figures in scoring in WAC games. He leads the group with 15.1 points per game.

--Freshman G Kenneth Smith has a better than 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in conference games with 54 assists and 26 turnovers heading into this week.

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