Last year was a year of transition for Michigan PG Jerret Smith. The oft-maligned floor leader showed signs of improvement in his second season as a college athlete, playing solid basketball down the stretch and giving the starting lineup a boost when he was inserted for the final nine contests. Even with his game showing progress, there were still negative traits that had to be corrected. One was his penchant for having too many turnovers. Another was his physique.
It was clear he was still a bit too bulky 2006. This year things have changed. Smith has bought into Coach John Beilein’s conditioning program, and the result is a trimmer, quicker player.
“I am in better shape this year,” Smith said. “This is the best year I have had conditioning wise. This is the most explosive I have been in a while. That is a good sign for me.”
In addition to working on getting in better shape, Smith has also worked to continue to improve a jumpshot that made great strides last year. A more confident Smith led the Wolverines in three-point shooting percentage last season, nailing 28/65 (43.1%) from beyond the arc. Despite that success, the junior point guard is not resting on his laurels. His growth as a shooter showed in practice yesterday when the team ran a drill where the players were required to come down on the break and pull up for the three. Smith was one of the standouts in drill, at one point draining three straight. It got to the point where onlookers felt like he would make it every time.
“My shot is more consistent,” Smith acknowledged. “Coach Beilein did not change the way I shoot the ball . He just said that my rotation on the ball needs to be better.”
As one of the older players on the team, Smith will be depended upon to help guide the squad this season. The new role is one the youngster appreciates because it’s a sign that his coaches are showing confidence in him.
“I feel like the coaches trust me,” he said. “They always tell me to play with more confidence out on the floor. They want me to be more aggressive in all facets of my game. Getting to the basket, passing… they want me to show my ability more. Coach wants us to play to our strengths and to always be ready to shoot”.
Smith likes the feel of this year’s team and how the players seem to be. That has helped increase his confidence even further, but he knows that there is still work to do.
“We are playing and supporting each other,” Smith said. “I feel confident, but I have not accomplished anything. I just have to keep on working hard.”