Jaye Crockett is gone; long live Jaye Crockett!
Texas Tech lost one of its better players of the last 20 years when Jaye Crockett graduated, presumably to play basketball for a paycheck somewhere on this mote of dust. But in Zach Smith, undoubtedly the most underrated player in Tech's most recent signing class, Tech adds a guy whose game uncannily mirror's Crockett's.
The most obvious area of resemblance is that Smith, listed by Tech as 6-foot-8. 210 pounds, is a jumping jack. Smith averaged 16 points per game as a senior at Plano East, which means that he probably averaged seven dunks per game. (That is only a slight exaggeration.)
Now the ability to dunk the basketball is doubtless an overrated skill, but it can suggest other talents. In Smith's case, it shows his tendency to attack the rim aggressively and with authority. And such a trait, among other things, will ultimately result in lots of fouls called on the opposition.
Smith springs directly off of the floor. He does not need to gather and take steps in order to get to the hoop. Rather, if he has the ball within four feet of the rim, there's a very good chance Smith is going to try to flush it. In this respect, Smith actually resembles Darvin Ham more than Jaye Crockett.
A tremendous aid for Smith at the offensive end is his quickness and shiftiness. He is more than capable of beating defenders off the dribble, and when he does, there's no need to guess his intentions.
Smith also runs the floor extremely well and is comfortable handling the rock in the open court. It was not uncommon to see him actually lead the break and throw down the pumpkin in his senior season.
A nice bonus is Smith's shooting ability. He shoots the ball naturally and effortlessly from deep, and this is another area in which his game resembles Crockett's.
Now Smith will probably evolve into small forward at Tech, but he has a couple of features you don't always see in a three.
First, he's a very good shot blocker. Last season he averaged 2.1 blocks per game and it's easy to see why. Smith times his leap very well and often baits his opponent into a penetration, knowing that he will swat the shot. What's more, in pogo stick fashion, Smith is capable of elevating twice in rapid succession to net two blocks on one possession.
Smith's other benefit is his rebounding prowess. Perhaps the best rebounder in Texas' high school ranks last season, Smith averaged 13 boards per game (best in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area), and had a high performance of 28 rebounds against McKinney. The Red Raiders were a good rebounding team last season, and Smith will ensure that Tech doesn't slip much at all in that area.
Smith also brings some good intangibles to the program. His coach describes him as a hard worker who comes to play every night and doesn't act like a fool in his private life.
If there's a sleeper in Tubby Smith's latest class, it is Zach Smith.
Talent Assessment: Zach Smith
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