Nolan Smith Confident In His Game
Nolan Smith had a fine career at Duke University, yet many mock drafts don’t have the guard as a first-round pick. If they do, he is right on the cusp of the two rounds. He believes one of the reasons for that is due to misconceptions and is motivated to change them.
"I think misconception that people have about Duke players being soft, that’s something that myself and Kyle (Singler), Kyrie (Irving), we can definitely clear up," said Smith. "Especially Kyle and myself, we both go hard, we’re tough guys and we’re out here trying to show that at the end of the day we’re competitors and we’re going to compete at the highest level."
While his college teammate Irving’s place as an incredibly high draft pick is nearly set in stone, Smith knows he has work to do before draft day to improve his status. Having players he is incredibly familiar with at the draft combine help his cause.
"It definitely feels good to see them here," said Smith. "I’m rooming with Kyrie here, I’m talking to Kyle all the time, we’re all going through the same thing at the same time, so it feels good to see these guys and just know that we’re all working hard for the same thing."
After seeing what his teammates can do, as well as believing in his own abilities, Smith is confident they will continue to show scouts what they can do on the court. When you couple the oncourt skills with the offcourt skills taught at Duke, Smith believes the draft will shake out in a favorable way.
"I definitely feel like we’re all first-rounders," said Smith. "One, I think that we’re all winners and that’s what the NBA is looking for. The NBA wants winners and somebody that’s going to come and bring a winning attitude and a winning feel to a locker room and to an organization. They’re also getting players that can just play the game, can do different things, very versatile. Kyle’s a player who can play the two, three, four, if you want him to. Myself, obviously playing the one, two and Kyrie, everybody knows what he can do. We just want to play basketball and win."
Coming from a winning environment, Nolan enters this time of year when he must give final thoughts to scouts by his play in the combine, supremely confident. Knowing the NBA is in the midst of a point guard revolution, he sees success in his future.
"I think my game translates well," said Smith. "Playing in space, the game has a lot more space than the college level, so I’m going to have more space to work, whether I’m playing the point guard position or the shooting guard position. I’ll just be able to make plays for myself and my teammates."
"This last season, handling the point guard position the whole year, it allowed me to get very comfortable with the ball and naturally being comfortable without the ball, so I feel good at both."
Part of that confidence comes from the constant encouragement from those who have been where he wants to go. As is the case no matter what your profession, having a mentor to look up to, seek advice from and receive encouragement from is imperative.
"Growing up, I had great mentors," said Smith. "Tyrone Hill, Allan Houston, John Starks, different guys that my Dad knew who were NBA players who were there for me and always telling me just to continue to work hard."
With so many guards eligible for the draft, Smith knows he isn’t a "sexy" name, despite the winning pedigree. it is now time for Smith to differentiate himself from the pack and throughout the combine he has a plan on how to do just that.
"Talk," said Smith. "I’m trying to talk in the drills, talk through everything. The teams don’t want a quiet point guard. I think every point guard here, scouts know everybody here can score, scouts know everybody here can defend. They know all those things, they’ve seen us for four years or three years. A lot of these guys are older point guards here, outside the freshmen guards like Kyrie and Brandon. Everybody else, they know what we can do offensively and defensively, so I feel like if we just come out here and talk and continue to show we’re competitors that’ll compete in the drills that we do here, that will separate ourselves from each other."
Showing the character of most who come from the Duke family, during this time that is most important to his career, Smith can’t help but reflect on the people who helped him get here.
"I think, for me, it’s multiple people," said Smith. "Obviously, my Mom always getting me to the gym when I didn’t have a father figure around. My Mom was always that person to get me to workouts, get me to AAU practices. My sister, the people that devoted their time to driving me and picking me up from the gym when I was putting in time."
The wait for a life-long dream won’t be too much longer for Nolan Smith.