Smart move: Sophomore paying dividends for men’s basketball after transfer

Smart move: Sophomore paying dividends for men’s basketball after transfer

Smart move: Sophomore paying dividends for men’s basketball after transfer
December 06
17:32 2017

Chicago, Illinois is known for producing great basketball players, and that is no secret. In the 2017 ESPN Top 100, three players were from Chicago and the surrounding area while two more were from other cities in Illinois.

It’s the same area sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart was born and raised.

A high level of competition always surrounded Smart whenever he wanted to play basketball growing up. And not one day passed where he did not want to play.

“I’d wake up and the first thing on my mind was, ‘Where am I going to play today?’” Smart said. “I was always trying to go play basketball somewhere. Wherever I could find a basketball and a rim, that’s where I was going.”

Outside of basketball, Chicago was not the easiest place for Smart and his family to live. His mother and basketball helped him get through tough times, and, as a result, he has grown closer to those important to him.

“I went through a lot of stuff, especially with my family,” Smart said. “[After the] tough times, [family] was all we had left, so it made me have a better relationship with my mom especially.”

Whether it was in school or outside at one of the countless courts at nearby parks, Chicago ended up shaping Smart’s game from a young age. His talent has already shown in his first season at North Texas as he is averaging more than 17 points per game.

However, Denton is not where his collegiate basketball career began. Out of high school, Smart was ineligible to play at the Division I level, so he was forced to go the junior college route instead.

After he finished one year at New Mexico Junior College, assistant coach James Miller began calling current North Texas head coach Grant McCasland when he was still at Arkansas State. McCasland had three coaches on staff who spent time as head coaches in the same conference as NMJC, so there was little chance Smart would fly under their radar. 

“We know the coaches and the players from that league well,” McCasland said. “[While we were] recruiting out there, we went and saw him in the first practice, and the first thing that stood out to you was his aggressiveness. He has a nose for scoring. I loved the way he competed, then once you get to know him you love his personality. He loved basketball and wanted to get better.”

Once Smart made the decision to play for McCasland and that staff, he did not care whether it was for the Red Wolves or the Mean Green. McCasland accepted the job at North Texas shortly after Smart committed, and the sophomore followed suit to Denton. 

Now, he’s leading the Mean Green in scoring at 17.1 points per game and shooting a lights-out .459 percent from the 3-point range in his first nine games. He is second on the team in average minutes played (29) and he also is shooting nearly 92 percent from the free throw line (34-of-37).

“Rose being on the floor affects the game tremendously,” sophomore guard A.J. Lawson said. “Everybody knows they have to guard him and know where he’s at on the floor, and that opens up the paint for us to get layups. He helps everybody on the floor because he’s a huge threat.”

His offensive skillset is something North Texas desperately missed last year, as Smart is a dynamic player by being able to hit a spot-up three while also having the ability to create his own shot.

In JuCo, the offense was not nearly as complex as it is at the DI level, and the talent level around him has increased as well. Smart is transforming his game from an isolation scorer to more of an off-ball shooter who can create his own shot as well, which has been a tough transition.

“Last year it was a lot of me going to make a play on my own,” Smart said. “Now that I’m playing at a higher level and possessions matter, I’m still figuring out [this offense]. I’m coming along a little bit, but it’s just me learning and getting better each day.”

While his offensive numbers leap off the page, it is his defensive improvement which means the most to McCasland.

“He’s made the biggest improvement defensively on our team,” McCasland said. “When we first got him, he had a tough time guarding the basketball, but he keeps taking steps in the right direction defensively, and that’s what you want [to see].”

His offensive and defensive progress this year have shown up as measurable statistics, his personality is important to the team as well — even if it doesn’t show up in the boxscore.

Despite being one of the new players on the squad, Smart hasn’t missed a beat on or off the court. His upbeat attitude is one the coaches value in the locker room, and Smart’s teammates enjoy playing beside him and hanging out with him.

“Rose is amazing — I’ve never met anybody with a personality like him,” Lawson said. “If you don’t like Rose then there’s a problem with you because he doesn’t have a problem with anybody. Rose is a great person, and I’m glad to have him as a brother.”

McCasland loved his personality when he first met him, and months later, he enjoys it even more. It was part of what attracted the coach to Smart on the recruiting trail. 

“He’s always smiling and having fun,” McCasland said. “It’s hard to find that combination of someone who is aggressive [on the court] but also a great teammate and someone people want to play with.”

 Smart has displayed his value across the board to the team, but he is nowhere near satisfied. As he continues to play with the passion he has had since he was a kid in Chicago, he will always prioritize his team’s success as he does whatever he can to get wins.

“We just have to come together as a team, get a little win streak going and get ready for conference,” Smart said. “I love playing this game, so I just try to get better every day.”

Featured Image: North Texas sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart dribbles the ball down the court in a game against Grambling State on Nov. 27 at the Super Pit. Smart is a transfer from New Mexico Junior College and is a starter for the Mean Green. 

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men’s basketball.

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