The J.R. Show

CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- If you weren't in Oscar Smith gymnasium Saturday evening for the J.R. Smith show -- you missed it. You really missed it. From 360 breakaway slams and 27 foot three balls, to a sweet dunk in traffic between defenders, Smith was chock full of SportsCenter-worthy highlights on this cold January night at the Battle by the Bay.

The athletic wing poured in 28 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked five shots en route to one of his best performances that the Inside Carolina staff has witnessed. His deep three-pointers, loud blocked shots and dunks led the way to a 85-77 win over Nansemond-River (Va.) and their stellar guard, Marquie Cooke.

Smith said he was ready to battle Cooke.

"I felt really good," said Smith after the game. "I knew I was going to have a good game and I was up for the challenge with Marquie. He and I know each other from all of the events that we played together in. He and I have a mutual respect for each other and he's such a good player. He's a great player. He's strong and he's just so physical with ball."

Cooke led Nansemond-River with 37 points and six assists. But Smith stole the show with his athletic ability.

Smith, on one occasion, flashed a big smile to the fans during the game when a teammate stole the ball from a Nansemond-River guard and flipped a pass to Smith, who had no one between the basket and himself. We asked Smith about the grin ...

"Yeah, well I just knew," he said, "that I was going to let the fans see something. I try to let them see something that they haven't seen before."

And he didn't disappoint.

Smith soared in for a reverse slam that sent the packed gymnasium into a chaotic state that words can't describe. Fans were singing, dancing, throwing drinks and falling all over each other in disbelief at the athleticism that was on display.

Later in the game, Smith got another big breakaway. This time? A poster-worthy 360 jam. And the fans reaction this time was somewhat different.

With under two minutes left on the clock, the fans just starting heading for the exits. And we're not just talking about a few of them -- we mean about 1,500 of them. Roughly 70 percent of the stands. It was definitely an AND1 moment for Smith.

"That boy is just ridiculous," said one fan on his way out the door. "He can jump over my Toyota 4-Runner," he added. "I'd drive 200 miles again to see that boy. That's Vince Carter all over again."

Smith's other highlights included some deep three pointers from as far out as 27 feet. He ended the game nailing 5-of-11 from behind the arc and 2-2 from the free throw line.

His shooting range is something that has noticeably improved over the past few months.

"I don't know why, I just keep taking them because they're going in. My dad taught me to shoot and we've been doing a lot of shooting drills at school. It feels good to hit them."

St. Benedicts is now 14-0 on the season.

OBSERVATIONS
by Clint Jackson

* He seemed to be in real good spirits before the game. Smiling, laughing and joking and he was very easy to talk to. Fans were shaking his hand and many UNC fans were in attendance. He signed autographs after the game and posed for pictures with fans.

* During pre-game warmups, Smith seemed content jacking up three-pointers. And he nailed about 80% of them. His range is unbelievable. He nailed three in a row from 30 feet.

* He wore No. 2 for St. Benedicts.

* He's noticeably improved on creating his own shot in the half court set. His handle looks much better from just over the summer. Likes to utilize a quick cross-over and step back move to create room for the jumper. Incredible elevation off the floor. High release shot with plenty of rotation. This kid could end up being an incredible shooter as well as an incredible athlete.

* Seems to be making quicker and better decisions with the ball. Sets screens and has learned how to move without the ball a lot better.

* On the negative side, he seems to stand around behind the three point line while his teammates are fighting for rebounds. He has to be more active on the glass. (He improved this in the second half)

* J.R. is not 6-5 anymore folks. He's got to be pushing 6-7.


Inside Carolina Top Stories