Smith has off-night at Slam Dunk tourney

LEWES, Del - J.R. Smith has played more than 40 games since coming to St. Benedict's (N.J.) and both the player and his coach agreed that Sunday's performance was at the very bottom.

Smith's stat line may not have looked all that bad – he shot 4-of-11 from the field, 2-of-6 from long range for 12 points, grabbed six rebounds and was credited with just one turnover. But he wasn't his usual aggressive self on both ends of the court and watched as his team, in a lackluster effort, beat Heritage Christian Academy (Texas), 78-63.

"Definitely. By far," Smith said when asked if this was the bottom-of-the-barrel in terms of performances since leaving Lakewood High. "For some reason, I was tired today. Usually, I come out fired up. I don't know why because I got a lot of sleep and everything."

So far this season, Smith has put up big numbers as St. Benedict's claimed tournaments in Utah and Florida. He started the year with consecutive 34-point outbursts and has leveled off somewhat, but still manages to lead a loaded team in scoring nearly every game.

Smith seemed to defer more than usual in the win over Heritage and his overall play was sloppy.

"It's different playing now because last year I was playing more for the college coaches – to impress them," Smith said. "Now I'm playing more for the fans and for my coach."

However, winning games really is secondary right now to making sure he qualified academically to play in Chapel Hill. St. Benedict's coach Dan Hurley said he is confident that his star will be eligible next season, but Smith still needs to either raise his GPA or his test score. Due to the new sliding scale, he could raise either one and be eligible as a freshman for the Tar Heels.

"Right now school is more important than basketball, more important than girls," Smith said.

Smith said the problem was that he put himself into a hole while at Lakewood and is finally starting to catch up.

The lifelong Carolina fan said he watches every Tar Heels game he can and thus far, like most of the country, he's been impressed with the current group.

"I've seen a lot of them and they play real fast," he added. "My tempo. Real athletic. I think if everyone stays, we can come in and win a national title right away. But I think someone is definitely bound to go (to the pros)."


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