A look at: Wellington Smith

BlueGoldNews.com watched the games of the Red Oxen at West Virginia's basketball camp. Here's a look at an individual player and what he might bring to the Mountaineers this season. Now, the final player in the 2006 class, Wellington Smith.

Smith is a powerful small forward with a smoothness to his game unfound in most college players of his size. The 6-7, 195-pounder, who is getting closer to 6-8, can slash inside and finishes well both catching the pass and via the dribble. He is not a pure drive-and-dunk/dish like fellow swingman Desean Butler, but he can play on the interior and has a solid frame that allows for contact, drawing fouls and slowing opposing players on the drive and when getting backed down. He will also finish strongly, and he and Butler would have to be regarded as the two dunkers in the class.

The Summit, N.J. native's best asset, however, is his shooting. He can hit the midrange jumper enough to pull opposing players out, and can put it on the floor and go by them. He played in a perimeter-oriented scheme at Summit High, where head coach Eugene Maxwell used him as the school's main three-point threat. Smith did not take many three-pointers in the three games we watched (he did shoot a few, with decent success) because, with Jonnie West and Butler firing often, Smith mainly rebounded and played solid inside defense.

He often matched up against 2007 recruit John Flowers (6-7, 210 pounds) on the inside in their two games (the Red Oxen won both the first-round matchup and the semifinal contest), and the duo attacked each other off the dribble and on rebounds. Flowers flashed more noticeable athletic ability and face-up offense, but Smith seemed to be able to score further from the basket, forcing Flowers into a no-man's land five feet from the three-point arc while also eliminating his putback chances. Flowers finally became wise to this, and moved toward Smith while also getting a body on him should he crash for the rebound.

Smith also dominated smaller players, recording multiple blocks in each game, sometimes staying on the leather enough to force a jump ball. He won't be able to do that in Big East play, but he is still quick enough to keep foes from driving around him and long enough to change shots. His body has continued to grow, and at a young 18, he might add a few inches, which would make him a very difficult match-up at the swing spot or the four, should he be able to add weight.

Smith's main problem was that, at times, he disappeared from play. He would have two or three great sequences, then seem to become invisible for stretches. That might have been because games often quickly got out of reach, or because he had enough talent around him and certainly is not a "me-first" player. But he could show more aggressiveness at times. He is a passer, as well, which adds to his game and allows him other options besides just a drive-and-finish play. He showcased that skill, finding cutters like Butler, Joe Mazzulla (who was not afraid to drive inside) and Devan Bawinkel, or dumping it on the elbow or low block to Jacob Green, who can finish with a fabulous-looking, silky jumper or bank it in off the board.

Smith has the tools and all-around play to help West Virginia immediately. He also might have the biggest upside besides Mazzulla, who could be very special if he can develop an outside shot. Smith's size, weight, dribbling ability and passing skills, as well as his outside shot and mid-range pull-up jumper, all point to immediate playing time as a Mountaineer. The question will be how he fits into the team, and if he and Butler will be forced to share any time behind Frank Young, or if both will slide to the four.

Butler or Green seem most likely to move to power forward because of their height and weight and inside ability. Smith has the best outside shot of the three, which would put the lineup with Jamie Smalligan and Rob Summers at center, with Joe Alexander, Butler and Green (perhaps redshirted) at the four and Young and Smith at the three. West will redshirt, meaning Alex Ruoff and Devan Bawinkel – who needs to slightly improve his 38 percent from three-point range) as the shooting guards and Darris Nichols and Mazzulla as point players. Cam Thoroughman will be a jack-of-all-trades reserve.

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