Duke’s Nolan Smith has Different Identity On and Off the Court


The Final Four means a bigger stage, brighter lights and more pressure. And in 2010, Duke’s Nolan Smith has brought his game up to another level on par with all the added media attention surrounding the ultimate weekend of college basketball. Following a career high 29 points in the Regional Final win over Baylor, Smith scored 19 (7-16 from the field, 4-9 behind the arc) against the Mountaineers. When Scheyer and Singler struggled with their shooting for much of the earlier rounds, it was Smith, the 6-2 junior from Upper Marlboro, Maryland that picked up the slack.

Obviously, the first two guys I mentioned were bigger names in college, but it’s Smith who might have the best NBA potential of the three. Remember his name this NBA Draft; especially when teams like the Chicago Bulls are on the board (with backcourt needs and a history of drafting guys from winning, high profile programs).

Smith’s success stems from his dual identity: nice guy off the court, cutthroat on the court.

By Paul M. Banks

duke national champions

“I know this is a business, and I knew that I have to take this seriously, a lot of people play basketball, but if I want to make it, I knew I had to get serious and get mad every time I take the court and attack players I’m going against,” Smith about the development of his other personality.

“It’s hard because I’m a loving and caring person and once I finally figured it out, both on and off the court I was good. I flip that switch whenever I get out there and attack who ever Is guarding me, I want to make a lot of money playing this game, so when I take the court it’s all business.”

Coach Mike Kryzyzewski (yes, I FINALLY spelled that correctly from memory) evaluated the fundamentals of his game.

“Nolan guards the ball well,” Coach K. said.

“For a little bit in the first half, he wasn’t. But he’s our best guy as far as breaking somebody down at the end of a clock or when we’re just running motion, and we give him the freedom to follow his instincts. He makes really good plays, not just shots. He’s very good with the ball. And he’s very good on the ball.

He hit some threes tonight, which he’s a good three-point shooter. But they were like when we kicked it back out and he’s ready to shoot. Nolan has played as well as anybody, especially in this tournament.”

Smith can play both guard positions; he’s got a very good first step and a great ability to finish at the rim. Singler and Scheyer may get all the ESPN pub, but Smith has one decided advantage over all the other players on Duke’s roster. I’ll let Coach K. explain:

“He’s the one guy that can {make big shots}, so when we do get to late clock situations, for the most part he would have the ball.  He’s the one guy on our team who can create his own shot. He does that well.”

“I feel like I bring different looks offensively and defensively,” Smith says about many of his attributes that could help him fit in at the next level.



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