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Texas Tech's Zach Smith - A Year in Review

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Over the course of the next few weeks I'll be providing my thoughts on the individual seasons in review for key returners to the 2015 squad. I'm focusing on conference play ONLY specifically the first 9 games vs. the final 9. I personally feel stripping out all pre-conference numbers tells a better story for a players season. Ideally you see an improvement from the first 9 to the final 9 conference games.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

#11 Zach Smith (Freshman) was a 3-Star recruit out of Plano (East HS), a suburb of Dallas, TX

Conference MPG FG% FT% PPG RPG BPG
1st 9 games 30 30% 68% 4.7 4.7 1.3
Last 9 games 32 63% 44% 8.8 5 1.3

Positives:

Zach was Tech's glue guy this past season.  He didn't light up the stat sheet but a lot of what he does doesn't show up in the box score.  His athleticism should be the first thing to jump out at you.  When you couple that with his length you've got what every coach in the country is looking for as a defensive stopper.  I knew at the very minimum he was capable of impacting an entire half of the court while he was in the game.  Zach set a school record for blocks as a Freshman with 46 on the season.  I think his value on the defensive end of the court was obvious but overlooked was his steady rise as an offensive threat.  He is exactly why I don't look at the season holistically when evaluating a player.  His FG% rose significantly as a result of him being more aggressive with the ball in his hands.  Shots he passed up early in conference became shots he knocked down or took to the rim.  He played with confidence.  He went from 12 buckets the first 9 games to 33 the final 9.  He showed the ability to step out, even some from behind the arc. He was not only the most consistent Freshman from this class but also the one that showed the most improvement through the season whether you see that in the numbers or not.

Negatives:

Shooting the ball.  Zach has a very unorthodox shot and as you would expect if it's outside of 3 feet from the bucket it more often than not didn't have a great opportunity of going in.  His offensive game is limited if he's not right at the rim.  Most all of his buckets outside the paint this year were a result of a defender giving him zero respect and more or less not guarding him.  He struggles with the ball in his hands and decisions under pressure.  For every block he had he negated that this year with a turnover.  Lastly, back to shooting the ball, he struggles mightily from the charity stripe.  For someone who struggles creating offense he needs to be a better free throw shooter to help contribute more on the offensive end of the court.

Former Red Raider Comparison:

From day 1 he reminded me of Dwalyn Roberts. Some of you may think I'm shooting low here but if Dwayln stayed healthy he would have been a guy we hold in the same regards as some of our former greats.  He had some incredible games but ultimately lingering foot/back injuries derailed what he could have been in college. While both players were/are athletically gifted neither came out to the South Plains with a very good basketball skill set.

Zach is the type of player that will be a good measure of Tubby and his staff's player development.  He has tools you can't teach and has potential for star quality if he is able to grow his game year over year.

2015 Outlook:

Zach will be a starting Forward and continue to be the guy that has the ability to keep this team in games.  I think he'll be an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention.