BOZICH | Russ Smith NBA Draft report -- 3 inches from lottery pi - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Russ Smith NBA Draft report -- 3 inches from lottery pick

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An NBA scout said that Russ Smith could be taken as high as 25th in the Draft Thursday night. An NBA scout said that Russ Smith could be taken as high as 25th in the Draft Thursday night.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – This is the way it works with several NBA scouts that I have developed relationships with through the years:

I ask them questions. Then they ask me questions.

I ask them about what NBA teams like and dislike about the local prospects. They ask me about my encounters with the same guys during their college careers.

That is the way it worked last week when I talked to a scout about Russ Smith, the former University of Louisville guard.

I asked for a range of where Smith will be selected in the 2014 NBA Draft Thursday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. He said that Smith could be taken as high as 25th – and as low as 45th.

"If he was three inches taller, he'd be a lottery pick," the scout said. "He loves the bright lights and he loves the big stage."

I agreed.

He asked about my interactions with Smith during his four seasons as a Cardinal.

This is the story I told him: Two weeks ago Smith participated in a six-player workout with the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Media members were allowed to watch the last 10 minutes of the drill and then ask questions.

WDRB sent me to Indianapolis with the tools for TV and Internet stories. I carried a notepad, tape recorder, Flip camera and small television camera. I was experienced with the notepad, tape recorder and Flip camera. It was my first interaction with this small TV camera model.

I was not convinced that it went well.

In fact, after Smith answered about a half-dozen questions, I was worried that I had not picked up audio from the interview. So I asked Smith if I could ask more questions.

Of course, he said.

But first Smith had a suggestion. Smith and a cameraman from another Louisville station looked at my camera and microphone, checking all the connections and batteries. Smith even pushed a few buttons – and then said everything looked fine. He was correct. The audio recorded the way it was supposed to record.

The interview continued with three more questions.

That's typical Smith. He showed that many times during his four seasons at the University of Louisville, especially on Senior Day when he invited a group of his high school teammates from New York City to join him on the court before the Cards' game against Connecticut.

The scout knew that story – and liked it. He is a Russ Smith believer. He predicted that Smith will be taken in the first half of the second round – and that he will make it in the NBA.

"I really feel that in the NBA with a good team that he won't have any problem because he'll understand what his job is," the scout said. "That's to drive, draw and dish for a layup or a dunk -- or drive, draw and kick to a three-point shooter.

"That's what will make him a player. That and his ability to push the ball because he has the speed. Defensively he has the ability to be an on-the-ball defender and to get up into his guy. He might be the best in the country at that. He's certainly right up at the top of the list."

The negatives about Smith are no surprise – size (he measured 5 feet 11-1/2 inches without sneakers at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago last month) and a proven ability to pass the ball (Smith had 378 assists during his career and 46 percent of them came last season).

But the scout said that during the final five-on-five workouts in Los Angeles last month, Smith was the best player – player, not guard – on the court.

"He put on a clinic on how to drive, draw and dish or drive, draw and kick," the scout said. "A clinic. He's a great on-the-ball defender. He's fearless and he has NBA talent pushing the ball on the break. That's why you take him."

And when you're in a jam, Russ Smith will also try to fix your camera.

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