For the first month and a half of the season, the best player on the men’s basketball team at Mount St. Mary’s might have been sitting on the team bench in a sports coat and tie, his tall, lean build and shaggy hair giving off the appearance of a curious character most people don’t know much about.
But that is all set to change today when 6-foot-8 forward Andrew Smeathers takes the court for the Mountaineers for their 1 p.m. game at American University.
Smeathers, an Indiana native, transferred to the Mount last December from Butler University, where he scored 63 points in 43 games for the Bulldogs.
For the last year, he has quietly been attending classes and participating in practice at Mount St. Mary’s. But he hasn’t been able to play in games due to NCAA transfer rules.
Smeathers grew up living and breathing the game’s culture in a basketball-mad state. Too young to have watched Larry Bird in his prime, Smeathers grew up idolizing another of the state’s professional sharp shooters, Reggie Miller.
As the date of this game has gradually approached, the anticipation of seeing what Smeathers might look like in a Mount St. Mary’s uniform has grown. He was second on the team with 15 points during the team’s annual Blue-White preseason scrimmage.
Smeathers is expected to help spread the floor with his shooting, primarily, and his ability to put the ball on the floor and score inside.
After Saturday’s 67-64 victory overtime home win over Norfolk State at Knott Arena, Mount coach Jamion Christian said, “I just don’t know how people are going to guard us when we are able to put him out there with (sophomore forward) Will (Miller) on one wing, with (freshman point guard) Junior (Robinson) coming off the ball screen, with (sophomore guard Byron Ashe) and (junior guard) Chris Martin.
“I think when you start looking at these guys offensively, we have a pretty good combination.”
Smeathers has had to acclimate himself to Christian’s up-tempo, “Mayhem” style of play on both ends of the floor. He has never played it before. He said the midwestern game is a lot slower than the East Coast style.
“I am really trying to wrap my head around this,” he said after the scrimmage during the team’s media day interviews.
But after sitting, watching and practicing for weeks now, he is ready for his first true taste. And the Mountaineers are eager to see what he can do for them.
“You know, Andy still hasn’t been able to accomplish a dream of his, which is playing in the NCAA tournament as a major player,” said Christian, who tried recruiting Smeathers when he was an assistant coach at William & Mary.
“That’s one of his goals. So, I’m happy because I get a chance to try to provide an opportunity for him to do that. Obviously, as a player, he is going to be special. His size, his ability to shoot the ball from the outside is going to be unique.”
Notes: The Mount had the last week off for final exams and hasn’t played since the overtime win over Norfolk State.
American leads the all-time series 32-30. But Mount St. Mary’s has won two of the last three meetings on the road. Last season, the Mount prevailed, 68-64 at Knott Arena.
The Eagles are 6-4 and coming off a 68-66 overtime win over LaSalle on Tuesday.
The game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet.
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