LANDOVER -- Washington Bullets coach Wes Unseld figures he knows a few things about being in Louisville. After all, he grew up there and was an All-American center at the local university.
So, Unseld cast a skeptical glance at the team's attempts to draw on the commonality shared among him, Bullets center and former Cardinal Pervis Ellison and new first-round draft choice LaBradford Smith by calling them "Louisville Sluggers."
"I'm the only one who's from Louisville, but I know who's going to be slugging," said Unseld.
A few minutes later, after noticing the earring in Smith's ear, Unseld informed the 6-foot-3 guard of another Louisville custom.
"LaBradford knows that the part of Louisville that I'm from, if somebody shows up with an earring, we give them a kiss," said a smiling Unseld. "I'm looking forward to this."
Smith proclaimed himself not as anxious for that greeting as his new coach, but otherwise willing and ready to come to work for Unseld.
"I'm just looking forward to coming in and helping this team," said Smith. "I just want to come out ready every night."
From his record, one can safely assume that Smith, who was drafted by the Kansas City Royals after throwing a 92-mph fastball for his Bay City, Texas, high school team, will be ready.
He is Louisville's all-time leader in assists, free
throw percentage and three-point shots, is second in steals and fifth on the all-time scoring list.
At his size and weight (205 pounds), Smith is able to play either the point or shooting guard position, which will give him a leg up over the myriad of guards the Bullets have under contract.
Unseld and Bullets general manager John Nash hope that Smith will push three specific players -- Darrell Walker, the incumbent point guard, Ledell Eackles, the incumbent shooting guard, and A.J. English, last year's top draft choice who had a decent, but not great, rookie campaign.
In fact, Nash publicly challenged all three last Wednesday when the team announced Smith's selection.
He said he thought about the propriety of the statement after making it, but wanted to drive home the team's disappointment that neither Eackles, who held out for a sizable contract boost and reported out of shape, nor English had seized the opportunity presented when the Bullets traded Jeff Malone for Ellison.
"We had given somebody the job on a silver platter and no one took it," said Nash. "What we were doing [last week] was telling everybody that the job was up for grabs."
Smith has declared himself ready to come to the NBA, where he believes his one-on-one and open court skills will be properly utilized.
"I like to go one-on-one a lot," said Smith. "I think that the pro game allows for that and to go in the open court."