Guarding Hoyas' Josh Smith: 'It's miserable'

Guarding Hoyas' Josh Smith: 'It's miserable'
November 5, 2013, 12:45 am
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UCLA Bruins center Joshua Smith (34) reacts after being fouled out against the Arizona Wildcats during the second round of the 2012 Pac 12 Tournament in the second half at Staples Center.

(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Based on Nate Lubick's reaction to guarding Josh Smith in practice, Georgetown foes are going to take a pounding this season.

"Ugh, it's miserable," said a wincing Lubick when asked about contending with his massive teammate. Smith will play his first game in the Hoyas season opener against Oregon in South Korea on Friday (8 p.m. ET).

For context, let's set the tale of the tape. At 6-foot-8, 219 pounds, Lubick is no pipsqueak. Yet the senior forward is a virtual Lilliputian compared to the 6-foot-10, 350-pound Smith. At least that's what Georgetown's media guide lists for the ultimate big man's measurables.

Still, there must some benefit to dealing with the true wide-body on a regular basis, even in a "practice makes perfect", "iron sharpens iron" kind of way, right?

"How has it helped me? I don't think it's helped me that much," Lubick deadpanned. "He just backs me down and dunks the ball every time."

That sounds miserable for those on the receiving end of Smith's low post power. Not so for the former UCLA transfer, who hasn't played an actual game since November 25. Six days prior, Smith played 12 minutes in a losing effort against his future teammates.

"I hurt my knee my senior year and I was out two months. Other than that, this is the longest I've been without playing," the former Pac 10 all-freshman selection said through an ample and relieved smile during his first session with local media since joining the Hoyas program in January. Last month, the NCAA surprised some observers by ruling Smith eligible to play immediately and for two seasons at Georgetown.

"All I can say is I was blessed," he said. "I knew I was going to play, but I didn't know if it was going to be the first game or [second semester]. But now knowing I can play, it's a lot of weight off my shoulders."

Whether he starts against the Ducks remains a mystery as Georgetown coach John Thompson III passed on divulging his lineup. The Hoyas are without last season's leading scorer Otto Porter, now an injured rookie for the Washington Wizards, but return four starters including Lubick and fellow senior Markel Starks.

Thompson also wouldn't offer any hint about how many minutes Smith can provide in the Armed Forces Classic, which will be played at U.S. Army base Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.

Conditioning has been a priority since the transfer began practicing with the Hoyas last season. Smith has lost a significant chunk of weight in that time. The exact amount, mum's the word.

What 411 did the coach provide on the risk-reward transfer?

* What he's learned since adding the interior and high post threat: "He's much more skilled than I knew before he got here," said Thompson, who noted he watched the Washington state product often during his prep years. "His skill for the game, how quickly he picks things up and his ability to see and pass the ball. I did not realize he had those tools when he came here."

* That he had no expectations prior to the NCAA's ruling, which came down on October 23, the same day the school made the news public (Smith echoed the no expectations line). Thompson called Smith into his office before that day's practice.

"I think he was relieved, excited - and a little bit nervous because he's got to perform right now," Thompson said of Smith's reaction.

*That, "Josh likes to talk. Ya'll are going to like him," Thompson said to members of the media. Of course, this came after the engaging big man spoke so even there, no scoop.

*And perhaps what fans want to know most: If Smith has a chance to join the pantheon of Georgetown centers.

"It's on him," Thompson said. "He has all the physical tools to possibly be in that category. Now it takes a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication and he realizes that. He's at a point now where it's squarely on him."

Smith received NBA Draft buzz during his first two seasons at UCLA before his situation deteriorated with the Pac 12 program. Now comes the next challenge.

"Now just being able to go to South Korea to play an Oregon team that I'm used to playing against, it's going to be fun."

Fortunately for Lubick, defending the offensive lineman-sized Smith is about to be someone else's problem.

"It's something very hard for another team to prepare for, him being in the game," Lubick said. "Oregon is somewhat familiar with him because he was in the Pac 12 before. He's new and improved. He's a unique weapon we're exciting about having."