MAAC players who eventually make an NBA roster are few and far between, but former Manhattan standout Chris Smith looks to have a legitimate chance this season.
Smith, the younger brother of the New York Knicks' sixth man deluxe J.R. Smith, is currently on that team's training camp roster hoping to make enough of an impression to sign a contract for the regular season.
Smith played two seasons at Manhattan. He averaged 9.9 points per game as a freshman in the 2007-08 season and 13.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a sophomore in the 2008-09 season. Included was a 35-point explosion against Princeton during his sophomore campaign.
After that, he transferred out taking his talents to Louisville where he was a two-year starter. As a senior (2011-12) he averaged 9.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game for his team that made it to the Final Four.
There, however, the Cardinals dropped a 69-61 decision to a loaded Kentucky team in the NCAA tournament's semifinal round contest. Smith had eight points on 3-of-11 shooting from the floor in that game.
Smith then began chasing a pro career and did well on the Knicks' 2012 Summer League team, averaging 10.4 points per game. But, following that, he had patella tendon surgery in October of 2012 to remove bone fragments and he couldn't even resume workouts for the next four months.
We remember Smith, an athletic 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, as much for his versatility as for his scoring exploits. His relatively high assist totals throughout college, both at Manhattan and Louisville, were indicative of his versatility and all-around game.
Now, he's trying to make the Knicks as a back-up point guard.
There's a nice story in today's New York Post about Smith's plight.
"Everyone just thinks I'm here because of (his brother) J.R.," Smith told the Post. "But I'm here because (the Knicks) see potential in me. I have to focus on what I have to do, lock in and get the job done and be determined."
Smith told the Post that he tries to be the first player to arrive at daily practice sessions and is often the last to leave.
"I like my chances," Smith said, in the article. "I'm fully confident I'll be playing here. But if it doesn't happen, maybe it's overseas or the D-League."
We do recall thinking, after watching Smith play several times with the Jaspers, that he looked to be the type of player who definitely had a professional future.
And, now, he's on the verge of making that happen.