like love Russ now? If you didn't know his background, check this out and be prepared to fall more deeply.
I thought we were all shocked about this recent Russ surge. Does anyone remember that Russ came to UL clearly touted as a scorer? If I ever heard that, I'd long forgotten it. After perusing these articles, it's clear what we've been seeing is no fluke. It shouldn't even be considered a mildly surprising turn of events.
It's Russ's payoff for years of hard work and a drive to excel.
And fortunately for Card nation, it's a guarantee of highlight reels to come.
Practice had just finished last Wednesday at Molloy, and the lights in Jack Curran Gymnasium were off. Smith was alone, launching shot after shot at the rim.
But he wasn't polishing his jumper. The 6-foot junior guard was hurling himself out of bounds near the baseline while simultaneously fading away from the basket, then - at the last possible second - tossing a high-arcing left-handed prayer towards the rim.
"You never know when you'll need it," he said. "So I practice all these crazy shots."
As he said this, he drove to the rim again, releasing a blind reverse layup. The ball kissed the backboard, then swished through the net, like all his other trick shots
"I also feel on top of the world. I'm a returning player, second in the CHSAA in scoring. I feel like everybody is out to get me and we should have a good team.
"After that, at South Kent, I'll play for Calvin Jefferson. He will finish the job Jack started, make me a complete guard. I have a lot of friends that have been there. (Rutgers center) Christian Morris (who went there two years ago) said it's nice.
"This summer, I'm playing with the Gauchos. That'll give me a head start. I'm playing with (Christ the King's) Sean Johnson, (Loughlin's) Doron Lamb, (Rice's) Durand Scott. I'm being a playmaker; that'll help colleges see me.
"Right now, getting ahead is the most important thing I can do.
"It's like a test: you have to study before you take it. I need to add strength. I know. I'm also polishing my jump shot."
I started training Russ toward the end of his freshman campaign & I noticed two things from the very beginning. He was coachable and he had this uncanny creative ability. Most people take coachability for granted. I don't care how nice you are- you can always get better. If you can't take criticism, I don't want anything to do with you.
In my opinion there are two areas that Russ has to continue to work on. Just like the great Kenny Anderson before him, he has to be able to get his teammates involved first and then be able to "flip the switch" and dominate from an offensive standpoint. Because after all, a point guards primary duty is to make everyone else better. Considering what a great scorer Russ is, that's not so easy to do. You feel like you can win the game on your own. Secondly, the same amount of energy he exerts on the offensive end, he has to do the same on the defensive end.
E.H. Talk to me about the 60 point game. Somebody had to piss you off!
R.S. Well in the beginning I didn't have that much confidence in my jumper. It was my first game back from nose surgery. I fought thru it and I ended the 1st half with 16. My confidence picked up in the 3rd quarter and I hit 4 back to back 3's. My stats were 60 pts-11 rebs-4 assists. I didnt go back in the last 3 minutes. The biggest shot was a fadeaway 3 to get 60.
E.H. I heard you outscored the other team 44 to 41 in the second half.
R.S. Something like that.
E.H. What are your 5 dream Universities? In no particular order.
R.S. Syracuse, UCLA, Florida, Louisville and Georgia Tech.
What might not be clear here, is Russ' appreciation (thirst?) for history and [halls of] fame.
His legendary high school coach Jack Curran played at St Johns for Frank McGuire, and then took the reins of Molloy from St John's-bound Lou Carnesecca. As of Feb 2008, Curran compiled a 2-sport record of 2,491-826 and won 5 city championships in basketball and 17 in baseball. And while no other New York City coach ever won a title in both sports in the same year, Curran did four times — in 1969, ’73,’74 and ’87. He has been inducted into nine Halls of Fame, including the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame
One might speculate that UL was one of his 'dream universities' because of a certain HOF bound coach.
Smith, though, answered with six consecutive points, including one 3-pointer in which he nearly jack hammered himself into the ground with a series of extraneous crossovers. He eventually found his balance and drilled a step back jumper.
"He hits some crazy shots," Dillon said.
"It’s composure," Smith added. "When most guys are under pressure like that they look to pass. I see what’s there."
A month or two ago I confessed to having been a 2009-2010 Russ hater, and professed a switch. A number of injuries in his freshman year at UL kept his abilities from our view. Fellow fans on the Russ train from day one, I salute you.
Russ is clearly a hard working, talented man; a man on a mission.
At the end of that mission we'll probably be hanging a banner in the Bucket.