Arizona Basketball

Five best games for Arizona Wildcats transfer Dylan Smith with UNC Asheville

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Only 14 months ago, Dylan Smith of Mobile (Ala.) Hoover High School was an injury replacement for Alabama’s group of all-stars against a team comprised of Mississippi standouts. Had Navy recruit Hasan Abdullah not injured his toe, Smith would have stayed home.

Now, Smith is committed to transfer to Arizona, a perennial Pac-12 title challenger and NCAA tournament qualifier.

Smith, a 6’5″ guard who led Hoover to the Alabama Class 7A state title in March of last year, verbally committed to Pan American at the time of the all-star game but was keeping his options open for other schools including North Carolina Asheville of the Big South. Scout, Rivals and ESPN did not offer a star rating on Smith out of high school because he was an unknown talent.

Now, while sitting out the year per NCAA transfer rules, he figures to be an essential practice player in 2016-17 against Arizona’s array of perimeter talent because of his defensive skills.

Smith opted to play at UNC Asheville, where he came off the bench through the first 16 games of the season. He played only six minutes in the opener at Tennessee, failing to score while missing his four field goal attempts, including two tries from three-point range.

Now, Smith will be counted on in Sean Miller’s system to provide balance at guard as a scoring threat as well as a defensive hound.

Smith, who started the Bulldogs’ last 18 games this season, achieved his high-scoring mark with 24 points against Johnson & Wales, an NAIA school based out of Charlotte, N.C. Three games later at Georgetown, he came off the bench to score 19 points, including 5-of-7 shooting from three-point range, in the Bulldogs’ 79-73 upset victory.

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Finally, six games later, after he scored only two points in 10 minutes before fouling out in a too-close-for-comfort 85-84 win over Winthrop, Smith made his first collegiate start on Jan. 9 at Charleston Southern. He responded with 23 points, which ironically was the last time he eclipsed the 20-point mark after achieving that three times previously.

The following is a look at Smith’s top five games with UNC Asheville:

Coastal Carolina, Feb. 2, 2016 — 14 points and 10 rebounds

In a tough 68-66 road loss, an overtime setback, Smith achieved his first and only double-double of the season. He struggled from the field, however, making only 5 of 22 shots, including 2 of 14 from three-point range. Smith made both of his free-throw attempts — he was sixth in the Big South making 82.6 percent of his shots from the line — but the rest of his teammates were a combined 3 of 12 against Coastal Carolina. UNC Asheville coach Nick McDevitt: “You can’t win too many ballgames going 5-of-28 from three-point range and 5-14 from the stripe.”

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Texas A&M, Nov. 21, 2015 — 14 points and two assists

Smith’s 4-of-8 three-point shooting against the Aggies (75-47 loss) in the fourth game of the season followed a combined 4-of-13 performances in UNC Asheville’s opening three games against Tennessee, Western Carolina and Mars Hill. The Bulldogs were 1-3 with the loss to Texas A&M as they traveled to play in the Great Alaska Shootout afterward. Fellow freshman Dwayne Sutton tallied 14 points and 12 rebounds. McDevitt: “I think we can continue to grow with (Sutton and Smith). Both guys had a pretty good night and they continue to get better. As the season goes along and they continue to get more experience, I think they will keep playing better and better.”

Villanova, March 18, 2016 — 14 points and five assists

Smith led UNC Asheville in scoring in the NCAA tournament first-round loss to eventual champion Villanova at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Bulldogs finished the season 22-12 and champions of the Big South tournament, which enabled them to play Villanova as a No. 15 seed. UNC Asheville senior forward Sam Hughes: “I think, as long as they (Sutton and Smith) stick together and continue to work hard and get the new guys coming in into the system and keep going, they’ll be right back here (NCAA tournament) next year.”

Georgetown, Dec. 19, 2015 — 19 points and two steals

After a Georgetown three-pointer cut the lead to 63-60 with 9:26 remaining, Smith answered with a three of his own to increase the lead back to six and end a 6-2 Georgetown run in the 79-73 upset in Washington, D.C. The victory increased UNC Asheville’s winning streak to five games. Smith helped to limit the Hoyas to 4-of-22 shooting from three-point range. McDevitt: “If you can defend and rebound as a smaller team, then you are awfully versatile and can pass and catch quickly on the other end.”

Furman, Dec. 29, 2015 — 20 points and five rebounds

Smith’s jumper with 1.5 seconds remaining earned UNC Asheville a 67-65 home victory. Smith was 4-of-8 from the three-point line. After Furman tied the game at 65 with a pair of free throws, Smith calmly dribbled down the clock for his near-last second bucket. McDevitt: “A couple big shots by Dylan down the stretch, but I thought overall both teams were just battling. It wasn’t pretty, but I thought we continued to work hard and play together and were fortunate to get a quality win.”

Dylan Smith (center) is congratulated by his UNC Asheville teammates after making a game-winning shot with 1.5 seconds left against Furman (UNC Asheville photo)

Dylan Smith (center) is congratulated by his UNC Asheville teammates after making a game-winning shot with 1.5 seconds left against Furman (UNC Asheville photo)

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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