Earlier this morning Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports reported that Joshua Smith, having recently left the UCLA basketball program, has Washington as one of three schools, along with Kansas and Georgetown, that he has an interest in transferring to. Of course, that information is according to sources, so it’s tough to know how heavily Smith is really thinking about Washington, but it is very intriguing.
Any Husky fan who has been paying attention the last few years knows at least a little bit about Josh Smith. The ultra talented, physically gifted kid out of Kent, WA, he was ranked as a five-star prospect by Rivals and four-star by ESPN and Scout in the Class of 2010. All three services had him as a top-10 center, and he was listed at around 6’9″-6’10” and 270-300 pounds. While many sort of assumed such a highly touted recruit from Western Washington would end up at UW, Smith famously chose UCLA and coach Ben Howland.
As a freshman Smith averaged 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds in 21.7 minutes, flashing his potential, but his struggles with weight had already began and would not be resolved, and Smith chose to leave the program for good in late November. While no one has really said for sure, his weight problems certainly had to do with it, and I would guess that Howland, a coach that has inspired many Bruins to transfer out over the years, probably had something to do with it as well.
So, as a transfer, it is really unsure what exactly Smith wants, and has the ability, to do. It isn’t certain whether or not he will be allowed to transfer within his conference, as it would probably be up to UCLA to decide, and it is rare for schools to allow in-conference transfers. However, Smith could petition for some sort of hardship that would allow him to head over to Washington, immediately redshirt, and start playing next year. It certainly isn’t certain that he is ready to lose at least 50-70 pounds in order to turn his career around. However, for the purposes of this post, let us assume that Smith is a changed man. Things just weren’t working at UCLA, but now his mind set has shifted and he is ready to head off to a new program, shed a lot of weight, and work his way onto an NBA roster (which he certainly has the potential to do).
That still leaves several questions. First, it’s worth looking at the very nature of Coach Romar’s program. He likes his big men athletic. In fact, every player that makes the Washington roster has traditionally had to run a 5:35 mile. While it’s truly frightening to think that Aziz N’Diaye, all 7’0 and 260 pounds of him, is capable of running a 5:35 mile, it also leads me to wonder whether or not Joshua Smith, even at a more reasonable 270-280 pounds, is capable of running that fast of a mile.
However, Romar has changed to a high-post offense, and his players don’t have to run up and down the court as much. I haven’t heard about any change to the mile requirement, but it would make some sense if internally Romar has softened that requirement to attract some more traditional big men to thrive in the slower system. Admittedly, that is purely conjecture, but it wouldn’t be crazy.
Another question worth asking: does Washington want Smith? He is overweight and hasn’t proven yet that he can lose the weight. Even under the assumption that he truly is ready to work it off, Romar would either have to be convinced of this, or be willing to take the risk of taking on a player with a history of disappointment at UCLA. There is also the fact that Smith isn’t really much of a prototypical UW big man. No matter how much weight he loses, he isn’t going to be fast. But, like I discussed earlier, in the new offense it would be so, so valuable to have a guy that can actually rebound and score in the post, especially considering that N’Diaye will be graduating after this year. The team needs a center.
While I can’t enter the mind of Coach Romar to see his thoughts on this, I say that if Smith is ready to work, Washington should give him a chance. He can clearly produce decently even when he isn’t in great shape, so if he whips himself into condition, he could be a very valuable player. I mean, low post scoring. Wouldn’t that be a nice change?
Not to mention the fact that for Smith to really be showing interest in transferring, he has to know about the mile requirement. He has to know that Romar will not accept an overweight player hanging around his bench. Perhaps the very fact (if the sources are correct) that Smith is thinking about UW means that he wants the father-like influence of Romar, and that he wants to make the changes he knows will be necessary here. Romar won’t take excuses, and maybe Smith is ready for that.
As far as I’m concerned, if Romar ends up giving him a chance, I’m fully willing to give him one as well. Though of course, only time will tell if that is actually going to happen.