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Why did Terquavion Smith return to struggling NC State?

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When asked NC At Purdue in mid-December last season, all attention was on the Boilermakers. They’ve just moved up to #1 in the AP poll, and guard Jaden Ivey is in the midst of a sophomore campaign that will eventually lead him to being in the top five in the NBA Draft.

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Ivey did not disappoint Sunday afternoon, finishing with 22 points and seven rebounds in the 82-72 overtime win. But it was his counterpart at NC State who had the NBA folks watching.

Terquavion Smitha Top 100 high school senior who averaged 11.0 points during his first month of college, had a standout performance, scoring 21 points and going toe-to-toe with Ivy and Purdue before losing in overtime.

“This dude has risen,” he recalls thinking to one scout in the Eastern Conference. “The reason they went overtime is because he looked at Jaden Ivey and said, Bring him on. He had no fear.”

While Ivey’s run grabbed the headlines for the rest of the 2021-22 season, Smith’s rise in the NBA draft circles was equally impressive. He moved up to the second round of the mock draft after a stellar freshman season, then became a possible first-round draft pick after his outstanding showing in the NBA draft pool.

“He’s the next guy with that speed and explosiveness,” said another NBA scout. As Jaden Ivey, Ja [Morant]. “

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Take a look at the highlights from NC State’s top guard, Tercavion Smith, as he decides to return to school for the 2022 season.

But Smith is back in college basketball, and is now a projected lottery pick in the June NBA draft. He is considered the best NBA back-to-school player.

“I’m excited for him,” said NC State coach Kevin Kates. “This is earned, not given. I’m excited for the kid because he put a lot of work into him. He was always the underdog. He worked his butt… I thought he could have a great year as a freshman. Twelve points, 14 points, but I’ll be I’d be lying if I told you I saw the lottery.”

Including the Purdue game, Smith scored 20 or more points in 12 of his last 21 games and hit the 30-point mark twice. He finished his freshman season with an average of 16.3 points. He also scored 34 and 20 in two games against North Carolina, and 19 against Duke. That is, for NC State that struggled last season, losing 11 of its last 12 games.

“In all the big games, he was one of the best players on the ground,” Keats said. “He didn’t want to lose. He played tenaciously. He won three state championships.” [in high school]. I thought this guy was fearless.”

Here’s the thing, though: Smith didn’t become a household name when he started this season. He was one of the best freshmen in the country last season and was projected as a borderline first-round pick in the mock drafts last spring.

So his return to NC State after a strong showing in the combine came as a surprise to some. After all, the Wolfpack finished last in the ACC in 2021-22, going 11-21 overall and 4-16 in the ACC.

Smith could have kept his name in the draft. He could also move, and was the most requested player in the gate.

None of that appealed to residents of Farmville, North Carolina.

“It’s just the environment of NC State and Raleigh,” Smith said. “Passion for college basketball. You only get that once. I feel like I have more to prove. I feel like I stayed because I’m big on loyalty. They recruited me at 15, and they never initiated me or you never lied to me about what I could do at NC State.” “.

Despite his three high school state championships, Smith did not have a very high recruiting potential. He committed to Keatts and the Wolfpack—his first scholarship offer—during his sophomore year. And only the East Carolina Pirates and High Point Panthers joined the Wolfpack in recruiting Smith.

Since Smith opted to return to Raleigh, Cates has noticed some changes in his star.

The 6-foot-4 sophomore is taking on a bigger role this season. Dereon Cebron, who led the team in scoring, rebounds and assists last season, left for the NBA draft last spring, and graduated veteran forward Jerricole Helms, who averaged 13.7 points in 2021-22.

“He listened to everybody,” Keats said. “His mentality is a bit different. He’s making a concerted effort to do more. He’s making a concerted effort to gain weight. V.

He added, “He doesn’t sound arrogant.” “I kind of wanted to, so I could take on him a little bit. But he didn’t. You don’t have to worry about his egos. But when he starts playing, he’s a character on the field. When he plays, he’s going up your neck.”

Over the first few games of 2022-23, Smith has picked up where he left off last season. But his focus on becoming more of a distributor, someone who can play more effectively, read the game and make the right decision, seems clear.

He averaged 19.0 points over four games, opened the season with a 26-point performance against Austin Peay, and leads the team in assists and steals. Smith’s biggest strides to date have come in his distribution and attacking proficiency. After averaging 2.1 assists and shooting 39.8% from the field last season, Smith is averaging 5.7 assists and 51.2% shooting.

But NC State’s level of competition will jump a notch at Battle 4 Atlantis, when the Wolfpack take on Kansas on Wednesday (12 p.m. ET, ESPN) and then play either Dayton or Wisconsin on Thursday.

“He’s a special talent, man,” said a fifth-year guard. Jarkel Joiner, who has spent the past two seasons at Ole Miss. “He can take it as much as he wants. We’ll need him this year, to play big for us, every night. Not just one night, not against certain teams, every night. And he knows that. And he’ll do it, and he’ll prove why he picked him in the lottery.”

Of course, the NBA folks have their questions about Smith: shot selection, decision making and his ideal next-level positioning. Can he play point guard, or is he just a pure bucket player in the mold of Colin Sexton and Cam Thomas?

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he played his part at the end-of-season lottery level or through the time combination,” said a Western Conference executive. “He’ll blow tests and measurements out of the water. He might be the fastest player in college basketball. He’s quick to twitch when they come on. He shoots it with confidence. There’s a lot of value there.”

However, Smith is not worried about it now. Lottery selection predictions, preseason first team All-ACC honors — it’s all noise. He just focused on getting better and leading NC State to more wins.

“Things like that, I admit, but I always have a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “Always harder. No matter what I receive or what I get from doing what I’m doing, I’ll always do my best and keep getting more than I’ve already got. There’s just something about being humble and keeping a chip on your shoulder.”

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