GEORGETOWN—At his best, Josh Smith was a twinkle-toed monster, a top-recruit, and lovable gentle giant.
At his worst, he was labeled lazy and selfish, an ultra-talented baller that lacked the passion and drive to match his prolific athletic gifts.
The 6 feet, 10 inch center came to UCLA as a freshmen in 2010 expecting to be the centerpiece of a Bruins squad looking to return to glory days of regular Final Four appearances and NCAA Tournament championships.
Smith enjoyed a successful freshmen campaign, averaging 10.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1 block per game as the face of a Bruins front-court that guided the team back to the NCAA tournament in 2010-11.
But in spite of his early success, Smith quickly wore-out his welcome in Westwood, as complaints of a poor work ethic and dietary habits appeared to match his robust frame.
During his time in Westwood, Smith more looked the part of an overgrown offensive lineman than a basketball player, a reality that fans and media never hesitated to highlight in tearing-down the troubled star.
“I had a bad rap at UCLA because I didn’t eat breakfast. I didn’t eat lunch. I would wait until after practice and workouts and then think I had to eat X amount of calories,” Smith told ESPN’s Andy Katz. “I’ve worked with a dietitian since I got here in January. Now I’m eating (those calories) with small meals throughout the day.”
Following the 2012-13 season, Smith finally called it quits in Westwood, taking his talents Eastward to Georgetown University, where five years later, Smith has re-captured his perception as a lovable force of basketball nature.
As his former team scratches and claws for a tournament birth, Smith has served as a key contributor on a tournament-bound Hoyas team. The senior has scored 15 or more points in seven games this season, recording six double-doubles.
His most impressive performance of the season came against Kansas, in which a Smith flashed every bit of the potential that both UCLA and Georgetown have struggled to tap into during his collegiate career.
In addition to shaving-off 40 unneeded pounds, Smith overcame a 2013 season cut short by academic ineligibility to earn himself a place on the watch list for the inaugural Kareem Abdul-Jabaar Award, given to college basketball’s best center.
Though Smith may be four years too late on truly cashing in on being an NBA lottery selection, the big man has truly resurrected a college career that many had written off.
Then again, twinkle-toed giants don’t necessarily grow on trees. A strong finish to the 2014-15 season, both on and off the court, may very well turn a few heads in NBA circles.
“A committed Josh Smith, I’m not sure there is a better big man in the country,” said Georgetown coach John Thompson. “He has the instincts and the physical tools to be better than any big man I’ve had.”