All's Well for WVU Forward

John Beilein said that he thought there were a couple freshmen who could help West Virginia immediately. "But I'll let you guys figure that out," he said. One of those, no doubt, is Wellington Smith.

Smith, a powerful small forward with a smoothness to his game unfound in most college players of his size, is a 6-7, 195-pounder who is getting closer to 6-8. He 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.

Smith has adjusted well thus far to Beilein's intricate offense and the collegiate style, both in terms of athleticism and execution. The Summit, N.J. native attributes much of that to his prep school season at Blair Academy.

"We had a great schedule in prep school," Smith said. "I am glad I had that chance. I would have been in for a rude awakening, thinking I was one of the best players in the nation when, really, I'm nothing. In high school we only ran two offenses – flex and motion. In prep school we ran about five or six options, and anything could happen because we had to read the defense. That is a big thing here. It helped me with reading the defense and seeing what a college coach sees about my game."

What Beilein saw was a shooter in a big body. Smith 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. He averaged 24 points and 12 rebounds, complemented by six blocks per game as an outstanding defender.

"My best asset is rebounding and scoring when I get a chance to," Smith said. "Some things I need to work on: slowing down my game a lot, probably shooting under pressure more and better and my dribbling. Shooting the ball is our offense. Everybody is able to shoot here, and we have drills where if we don't shoot the ball as much as we should, we have to run. It is great that I can shoot because I can play the two, three and four position and the defense does not know what hits them. It gives me a chance to expand my game more, being a scorer, a stopper and an overall player."

Smith has the tools and all-around play to help West Virginia immediately. He also might have the biggest upside besides freshman point guard Joe 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.

Another aspect Beilein likes is Smith's basketball IQ. He understands the setup and what his strengths are against defenders. He can routinely pull opposing players away from the basketball on offense, and his lankiness is a defensive asset.

"My basketball IQ comes from a lot of sitting down and talking to my prep school coach, my high school coaches, my AAU coach," Smith said. "In order to pick this system up, you have to have a good IQ about everything. He has a lot of other players that are going to pick it up real quickly. (Beilein) threw out things like ‘Lion' and things like that that I never heard of before. The different reads, I have to know what I am doing, the other guys have to know what I am doing, then I read what the defense is doing to them. It is a lot of stuff you have to be smart about."

Smith considered Virginia, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and South Florida along with West Virginia.

"They were always there," Smith said of West Virginia. "They recruited me my sophomore year. They were not that good then. But in my junior and senior year they made some big strides. That put them up on my list of schools. They kept on talking to me, and I loved the attention I was getting from them. Some of the schools were not as serious as I thought they were. West Virginia was a great fit, and I feel really comfortable here.

"Being away from home is a difficult adjustment because you are not used to being away from your parents as much. All the freshmen are getting used to that. They are not being homesick, maybe not as much as we would have been, because we are all together."

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