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Player of the week: Zhaire Smith

Being a freshman and not feeling it

NCAA Basketball: Under Armour Reunion Seton Hall vs Texas Tech Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The particular structure of the Texas Tech roster includes only a few upperclassmen, which forced coach Chris Beard to give immediate trust to a bunch of freshmen.

Among them, many already have made a positive impact on the team, including Davide Moretti, Jarrett Culver (who was the object of this column two weeks ago), and Zhaire Smith, who’s under our magnifying glass today.

Smith is a 6’5, 195-pound guard from Garland, TX, with a solid high school background—he earned District 10-6A MVP honors during his senior season, averaging 20.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and three assists per game.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Northwestern Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Once in Lubbock, Zhaire didn’t waste time, immediately earning an important position in the rotation. He averages 22.6 minutes per game, which is third on the team, behind Keenan Evans and Zach Smith, having not played less than 18 minutes in a single game.

At the same time, his productivity has been stable. Smith is averaging 9.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and one steal per game. In addition, he had double-digit performances in seven out of 10 games.

This week, Zhaire earned honors because he was, alongside Keenan Evans, the only player to score more than 10 points against both Kennesaw State and Rice. He also steadily is in the highlights for his arsenal of dunks and spectacular plays.

Smith had a special impact on the team, and, despite a small sample size, he’s been effective against the best teams Texas Tech’s faced. That’s a promising indication with the conference schedule knocking on the door.