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Smithson Looking To Take 'Lead' Role At Point Guard

October 27, 2004 · MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Bryan Smithson is a sophomore at Middle Tennessee in relation to eligibility, but the second-year point guard is taking on a leadership role on a Blue Raider basketball team blessed with veteran guidance.

Smithson appeared in 28 of the team's 29 games as a freshman and earned 28 straight starts - the longest-such streak on the squad entering the 2004-05 campaign. With a wealth of game experience under his belt, Smithson believes it's his responsibility to be a leader on the court.

"Going into this season, coach (Kemit) Davis talked to me about taking more of a leadership role than taking a backseat approach," Smithson said. "With all the games under my belt I feel like I'm a veteran now so I have to take some leadership roles."

Smithson averaged right at 30 minutes a game during his freshman campaign, and he proved to be one of the best point guards in the Sun Belt. He was No. 4 in the SBC in assists per game (3.9), and was sixth in turnover/assist ration (1.43), leading all conference freshmen in both categories. He also averaged eight points a game.

More importantly, Smithson played his role to well and did an above-average job of getting the ball in the hands of Middle Tennessee's top scorers.

"I thought, for playing the minutes he did as a freshman, Bryan had a very good year," Davis said. "I think Bryan knows he has to be an even better playmaker. He's had an outstanding fall workout program and he's working hard in preseason practice."

Smithson is being pushed by junior newcomer Fats Cuyler and says he welcomes the competition because it's going to add depth and make the team better.

"Fats is a good player and we push each other every day at practice," Smithson said. "That's the way it's supposed to be. Competition makes you better."

FEED THE POST: Davis says he is going to make an effort to assure players in the post at Middle Tennessee are involved in the team's offense in 2004-05.

Post players accounted for 39 percent of Middle Tennessee's scoring last season but that figure is somewhat misleading because it includes Michael Cuffee's 12.3 points per game and includes his production from the wing, as well as the post.

Of course, Davis has a reason to drive the point home in 2004-05. Middle Tennessee started two freshmen and played three in the post last season. Kyle Young earned 20 starts as a freshman and Alex Weekes started nine and played in 28. Keith Christmas saw action in 17 games during his first year, plus the Blue Raiders welcome the return of Darrio Scott from an ankle injury, as well as the addition of 6-foot-9 Georgia transfer Steve Thomas and exciting incoming freshman Brian Lake.

"What we have done better this year than in previous years, and I've done a better job of it as a coach, is emphasizing throwing it to the post and that's what we have to do because Kyle, Alex, Keith and Darrio have all made progress and you have Steve, so we have to do a better job of getting it to the post. Hopefully I am going to do a better job of coaching it and teaching it, play more inside-out and maybe get to the line more than we did last year."

Experience isn't the only reason why Davis is anxious for his perimeter players to feed the post. Young says he can see a definite improvement in the team's inside game after 12 days of preseason practice.

"I see a big difference because there is better competition," Young said. "Not to say anything bad about last year's players but with Steve here we have more competition on the past every day and that helps you get better ever day so I see more improvement on a daily basis, especially with people like Brian Lake, who had the best practice of anybody (Monday), by far."

BLUE-WHITE SCRIMMAGE: The Middle Tennessee men's basketball team will hold a Blue-White scrimmage Saturday at 11 a.m., at Murphy Center. The scrimmage is expected to last until 12:30 p.m.

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