Jerret Smith has seen his star dim a little over the past year. After rousing success as the marquee player his first two years at Westland John Glenn, he transferred to Romulus last season where he shared the spotlight with current Michigan Wolverine, Ronald Coleman. Known as a pass first shoot second point guard, it was thought that playing beside such a talented scorer would only make his game better. To a certain extent that indeed was the case. His assist numbers were as high as ever. His offensive numbers, on the other hand, didn’t see the same increase.
Because he was on a more talented team, many expected his point production to take a little hit. While that certainly contributed to the downturn, there was much more at play. “One of the main things I concentrated on last year was making sure Ronnie got his shots,” Smith said. “He was a senior and the star of the team and I wanted him to succeed.” Coaches want their point guards thinking in that manner, but after a while, the part of his game that was his biggest strength, (passing), became somewhat of a preoccupation.
“Remember when I was at Glenn how I would just come down and wasn’t tentative with my shot,” Smith asked. “I’d bring it down on someone, cross them over and then pull….or hesitate and then pull. It got to the point where I’d cross someone over and then think about it.” That he was thinking too much on the court was evident in some of the games we observed him play in during the last six months. Openings that he would explode through the year before were ignored in favor of passing the ball or resetting the play. When he did decide to take advantage of paths to the basket or less talented players, the extra time taken to make that decision would often cause the opportunity slip by.
Jerret takes it up strong in Summer Leagues
At times the tentativeness would disappear and the aggressive playmaker would again shine through. He was a key factor in keeping Romulus in the game in the Eagles’ almost playoff victory gainst Belleville last season. Seemingly on the brink of being blown out at the end of every quarter, Smith made plays that not only dissolved a double-digit deficit, but gave his team to lead late in the game. In a touch of irony, a game that looked be evolving into his shining moment as an Eagle turned out to be the source of his greatest disappointment. Four missed free throws in the final minute of play (two coming while down by a single point with 8 seconds left on the clock) contributed to the loss and gave rise to a flock of naysayers that insisted he wasn’t a big time player. “I’ve never choked like that at the end of a game,” Smith said recently. “I did shoot well from the free throw line all of last year, but at the end of games you could usually count them. It helped that some of my teammates supported me.”
That last game specifically, and last season in general, undoubtedly had an effect on Jerret’s confidence. His early games with The Family on the AAU circuit did nothing to help him regain it. After struggling at the Boo Williams tournament and seeing himself benched, the senior-to-be decided to refocus his basketball attention to his young high school team. By playing summer league games with his squad and heading down to Michigan for open gyms, Smith began to slowly but surely build himself back up. By the time he made it to the NBA Camp in Richmond last month, he was beginning to feel like himself again.
“I just want to get better,” Smith said at the NBA Camp. “I want to improve every part of my game, but confidence is the main skill that I need to work on. I’ve got my confidence up near where I think it should be now.” That was obvious to us in his play. While some of the tentativeness was still present, it wasn’t as prevalent as it had been in earlier months. In addition, his passing was a good as it had ever been. Those who had only watched him during the summer months thought that he was struggling, but when looking at the progression he had made from the end of the season to that point, it was clear to us that he was coming out of a funk.
Jerret takes it to the hole at the NBA Camp
Next up for him was the ABCD Camp in Teaneck New Jersey. Some were again saying that he struggled, but NBA and college coaches we talked to said something very different. Comments like “excellent floor leader,” and “best passer here” were common in a couple of conversations. “It’s a lot of 1 on 1,” Smith said referring to the camps. “I’m not used to that. These are good camps and you learn a lot, but I’ve noticed that most guys come up here to do their own thing. That’s not my game.” Still, that’s exactly what many observers were waiting to see.
Then came the Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas. Running with a new AAU squad, Team Detroit (led by Detroit Crockett Head Coach RaRedding Murray), Smith erupted with offensive performances that had those looking for such things buzzing. He had a 20 point effort last Friday night and then came back Saturday with another one. That time, however, he finished the game thrilling fashion. With 10 seconds left on the clock and Team Detroit down by 3, Jerret hit a triple to tie the game. Detroit then inexplicably fouled with three seconds left on the clock. The opposing team then made 1 of 2 from the line to take the lead. Game over, right? WRONG! Team Detroit threw an alley-oop to Jerret in the lane, he caught it in the air, and then shot it in for the game winner!
Speaking to Jerret’s Dad, he has noticed that his son is rounding back into shape and is having fun again. “I think that he is really enjoying himself,” Mr. Smith said. “I’ve noticed him laughing and enjoying himself on the bench. Coach Murray is having a very positive effect on him. He’s doesn’t have all of the top players on his team, but he does have a lot of kids that are willing to work hard. I really like Speedy Walker (Coach of AAU team “The Family”) and I think he’s a great coach, but I think the change of scenery may have done Jerret some good.”
Normally hesitant to heap praise upon his son, Mr. Smith couldn’t help but notice Jerret’s performances when we talked to him in Vegas. “In one game the opposing backcourt just couldn’t handle Jerret because he was just too big and too strong.” Mr. Smith said. “Plus he was just as quick as them. They switched Brandon Rush on Jerret to try to slow him down. It has been that way the whole tournament.”
It’s too early to say Jerret is all of the way back, but as we’ve been insisting all along…the young man is getting there. It would come as no surprise to see him start moving back up in the rankings again. However, the rankings and all of the talkers out there aren’t going to be sources of concern for Smith anymore. “I use to pay attention to the rankings, but I don’t anymore,” Jerret said. The talk won’t bother me anymore either. Half of the talkers are the same ones that say how much they appreciate my game in my face. The only one that can stop my progress is me.”
On that note, look for the young man to continue on his journey back.
For all previous GBW stories on Jerret Smith, check out the Basketball Recruiting Primer on the left NAV Bar under "Best Guess Recruiting Class."