Smith on ACC 1st team

March 08, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- When Joe Smith was going through the first noticeable slump of an otherwise brilliant freshman season, there were whispers throughout the Atlantic Coast Conference that it could cost the 6-foot-10 Maryland center a chance at first-team all-league.

His shot wasn't falling, but his numbers and the Terrapins' were. So after Maryland lost at home to Georgia Tech on Feb. 5, Smith went home with his mother, Letha, to Norfolk, Va., for a little more than a day. It was a chance for the heretofore unheralded player to remove himself from the suddenly overwhelming spotlight.

"It helped me a lot," Smith recalled yesterday. "My mother told me that if I took my time, my game would come back."

Smith's game came back a few days later, when he outplayed North Carolina All-American Eric Montross for the second time in as many games. And, with the exception of a foul-hampered performance against Clemson, Smith picked up the level of his play for the remainder of the season.

Smith's finish as much as his remarkable start enabled him to be named first-team All-ACC yesterday by the league's sportswriters association. Smith became the fourth freshman in league history named to the first team and the first Maryland player since Derrick Lewis in 1987.

"It's a great accomplishment," said Smith, who joins former Georgia Tech stars Kenny Anderson and Mark Price, as well as former Dunbar High School and Clemson star Skip Wise, as the '' only first-team All-ACC freshmen. "I feel really good about it."

Smith, who came into the league without the hoopla that accompanied North Carolina's Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse, showed how much his confidence has grown when asked if he deserved such recognition. Considering his normally low-key, humble style, it was about as close to bragging as Smith gets.

"I think so," he said. "I think I came in and played a good season. I stayed consistent most of the season. I helped the team tie for fourth place in the conference when people were picking us for eighth or ninth. I think I deserve it."

Smith finished the regular season as the league's fourth-best scorer (19.0 a game), its second-best rebounder (10.6) and its second-best shot blocker (3.3). Duke's Grant Hill received the most votes and was one second-team vote away from being a unanimous selection.

Following Hill were Wake Forest's Randolph Childress, Florida State's Bob Sura, Georgia Tech's James Forrest and Smith. Former St. Frances star Devin Gray of Clemson was voted to the third team. The remaining Maryland starters all received votes, with sophomore guard Johnny Rhodes leading the list for honorable mention.

"I think in terms of what he's done here, he's been as important to our team as any player in the league," Maryland coach Gary Williams said of Smith, who led the Terps (16-11) in scoring 14 times and in rebounding 18. "For us to be tied for fourth place, Joe's had a major impact. Joe's confidence has been very high since the beginning, and after the first game against Georgetown, the other guys became more confident because we had a player who could do those things."

Starting with his 26-point, nine-rebound debut against the Hoyas and Othella Harrington, Smith continued to put up impressive numbers: 30 points and 16 rebounds against Oklahoma on the road, 23 points and 20 rebounds against Florida State, a combined 47 points and 22 rebounds in two games against the Tar Heels and Montross.

But it was last week's performance that helped put Smith back on many first-team ballots. After scoring a season-low eight against Clemson, Smith had 16 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks in a 72-69 loss to then-No. 2 Duke and 20 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks in Saturday's 70-68 win over Virginia.

"At the time he was struggling, Joe felt he was tired," said Williams. "Whether or not he was tired, he thought he was. He wasn't as quick as he had been. Now, he's got that back. As long as Joe has his quickness, he's a special player."

FIRST-YEAR WONDERS

Freshmen who have made first-team All-ACC:

1975: Skip Wise, Clemson

1983: Mark Price, Ga. Tech

1990: K. Anderson, Ga. Tech

) 1994: Joe Smith, Maryland

ALL-ACC TEAM

FIRST TEAM

Player.. .. .. .. ...School.. .. .. .. Pts

Grant Hill .. .. .. .Duke .. .. .. .. 341

R. Childress .. .. ..Wake Forest .. .. 335

Bob Sura .. .. .. .. Florida St.. .. ..301

James Forrest .. .. .Ga. Tech .. .. .. 278

Joe Smith .. .. .. ..Maryland .. .. .. 274

SECOND TEAM Player.. .. .. .. .. School.. .. .. .. Pts

Travis Best .. .. .. Ga. .. .. .. .. .. 271

Derrick Phelps .. .. N.Carolina .. .. ..247

Sharone Wright .. .. Clemson.. .. .. .. 240

Eric Montross .. .. .N.Carolina .. .. ..228

Cherokee Parks .. .. Duke .. .. .. .. ..173

THIRD TEAM T. Owens.. .. .. .. Wake Forest.. .. .. 144

Burrough .. .. ..Virginia .. .. .. ..119

Antonio Lang .. .. .Duke.. .. .. .. .. 114

Todd Fuller .. .. ..N.C. State.. .. .. 40

Devin Gray .. .. .. Clemson .. .. .. .. 40

Maryland players receiving honorable mention votes: Johnny Rhodes, 36; Duane Simpkins, 18; Exree Hipp, 18; Keith Booth, 1.

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