Smith, a true freshman guard, is no longer part of the Bulldog squad, Mississippi State announced today. During his one season Smith played in 26 games, all of them coming off the bench, contributing 4.2 points on 40% shooting with 49 assists. He was the backup at point guard to senior Dee Bost and averaged 13 relief minutes.
Mississippi State gave no reasons for the withdrawal, nor quotes from either Smith or recently-retired head coach Rick Stansbury. But the Jackson native had some ups and downs during the rookie year due to still-unspecified health issues. Smith missed the season-opener in November, as he was in a Jackson hospital for tests at the time.
He played in 18-straight games before missing six in a row during SEC season. After return he did have two games with significant minutes, 16 at Auburn and 12 at Alabama. But down the stretch with State trying to remain in the NCAA Tournament picture Smith only played five, two, and two minutes; then four against Massachusetts in the National Invitation Tournament.
Following his return from the six-game break, Smith scored a total of eleven points in eight games with five assists. State’s reliance on Bost was one reason, but Smith’s performance in February and March was erratic at best.
At Callaway High School, Smith was rated among the nation’s leading point guard prospects as a senior playing for the two-time State Champions. Though a freshman, he was 20 years old already when playing his first college game.
State loses senior starters Bost and Brian Bryant to graduation, and now Smith from the backcourt, the only players who worked at point guard in 2011-12. The only returning true guard is shooter Jalen Steele, who had 28 assists all season and 37 turnovers. Outgoing coach Stansbury did sign four guards in November: P.J. Hardwick of Miami, Fla; Fred Thomas of Jackson; Josh Gray of Lake Charles, La.; and Craig Sword of Montgomery, Ala.
There are open scholarships to give in April’s signing period by the new head coach, too. How many more will depend on which direction All-SEC power forward Arnett Moultrie chooses to go for next season. A junior having played two years at UTEP, redshirted one season after transferring to State, and a double-double performer this past winter, Moultrie was mulling early entry into the NBA draft. Some independent outlets rating him a solid first round selection, though other analysts project him falling into the late-first/early-second position.
State also has an interesting choice as well, whether to keep controversial center Renardo Sidney around for a senior season or cut ties after the Jackson native’s post-season comments regarding his coach and program.