What's Lenzelle Smith's Ceiling Next Year?

By Michael Citro on May 6, 2013 at 11:30a

A year ago, Lenzelle Smith Jr. had a career that appeared to be trending toward David Lighty territory. Smith showed he could defend and do whatever was necessary to help his team win — scoring, rebounding, and slashing into the paint to either score or open up a teammate. He just needed to become more consistent.

Lenzelle Smith Jr.For Lenzelle Smith Jr., consistency has been hard to find.

Smith appeared to be an important cog to the 2012-13 Buckeyes, especially early.

He opened the season with 33 points in the first two games, on 12/20 shooting. He hit 5/6 from the three-point line and 4/6 from the stripe in those games, grabbing nine boards, with three assists. That was the Smith we expected to see, despite the level of competition (Albany, Rhode Island) not exactly being the highest quality.

Then the inconsistency showed up. Smith went 0/5 and failed to score in Ohio State’s 77-66 win over Washington. A passable 13-point performance against Missouri-Kansas City was followed by 6/21 (3/12 from three) in games against Duke and Northern Kentucky.

That trend continued throughout the season for Zelle. A 7/10 performance against UNC-Asheville was good. A 3/13 (0/7 from three) night against Kansas was not.

Smith couldn’t seem to put together a prolonged stretch of solid play. He started the B1G schedule with 17 points (6/9 shooting, 5/7 from three) and six boards against Nebraska. But in the next four games — at Illinois, at Purdue, vs. Michigan and at Michigan State — Lenzelle scored 20 total points and turned the ball over 13 times. Two of those games were losses. He did manage 29 rebounds in those games, but his 7/26 shooting in that span was less than optimal.

There were times during that stretch when the Buckeyes were much better off with the junior on the bench. That was partly due to Shannon Scott's emergence, but also Smith's inconsistency.

Zelle backed up a pair of average outings against Iowa and Penn State with just five points in the home win over Wisconsin on Jan. 29. Then he destroyed Nebrasketball again with 6/6 shooting (3/3 from downtown) in Lincoln, finishing with 21 points, but he tallied more turnovers (2) than rebounds (1) in the contest.

He went 4/10 (2/7) in the overtime loss at Michigan and then failed to reach double figures in four of the next five games. Smith scored 24 with six rebounds at Northwestern, but then scored 25 total points in the final five B1G games (regular season and tournament).

Smith reached double figures just once in Ohio State’s Elite Eight run, going 5/10 for 12 points against Iona in the tourney opener.

He clearly has the talent to be a glue-guy type for Ohio State, which desperately needs one, but can Smith find the consistency to pull it off?

He may have to if the Buckeyes are going to return to the Elite Eight in the post-Deshaun era. Tank supplied much of Ohio State’s offense, and LaQuinton Ross may be able to step into that role, but Ohio State will need more than potential to challenge Sparty for the B1G crown. Consistent performances from Zelle would go a long way toward mitigating Thomas’s loss to the NBA.

Smith with the dishSmith has the skills to become Ohio State's new "glue guy."

If Smith can just turn some of those 2/7 performances into 4/7s and some of his 2/6 nights outside the arc into 3/6s, it would take the pressure off Ross, who will be asked to shoulder an offensive load for the first time in his collegiate career. Ross sure stepped up in the NCAA tournament, but most of his best performances took place over the course of a 20-minute half, not a 40-minute game. There’s no way to know if Ross can take that next step.

Similarly, Aaron Craft will need to perform the way he did in the postseason. The Buckeyes are at their best when Craft attacks the basket and either gets to the rim or finds his open shooters when the defense collapses.

Then there’s the five spot, which was more of a soft spot last season. Amir Williams is running out of time to escape the “bust” label and the Buckeyes won’t be able to go with a small lineup without Thomas.

With all the unknowns about the 2013-14 season, Smith’s development into a consistent complementary player and all-around glue guy is more important than ever.


Comments Show All Comments

ih8rolltyde's picture

Good write up. I think the ceiling is glue guy, role player type who can get hot; but is unlikely to be counted on for 13-17 on a nightly basis. For the 2013-2014 bball Bucks, its all about Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross in my humble opinion. If those guys step up their games, we can be better next year. If I'm honest, Zelle's potential ceiling is Europe, Q is lottery pick, and Slam (with his freakish athleticism) is somewhere in the first round.

****igan smells like old water that hot dogs were boiled in.  FACT

BuckeyeMike2002's picture

I agree. Glue guy. He fits well with Matta's system where playing great defense has to happen all of the time.  I think you're over selling Q  and Sam. Late first round for both of them. I hope I'm wrong because I always want our guys to be #1. I would rate their stock a little lower.

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chirobuck's picture

Thompson is a second rounder at best unless he drastically improves, you don't get wins added to your record for winning the dunk contest.....Q maybe a mid first rounder because of potential match up issues he can create but there is a reason he didn't play as a freshman and stopped getting playing time last season after getting some early.......it was nice he had a couple good halves in the tourney but haven't seen him do anything game in and game out over a season yet


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AcrossTheField11's picture

Ceiling = 8 feet.  Standard.  No More No Less.  Definitely the glue guy who can hit the occasional 3 and grab boards but should not be counted on to carry the team offensively or defensively.  Maybe he can be an outspoken leader that the younger kids look up to. 

Time and change will surely show how firm they friendship... O-HI-O.

bukyze's picture

I thought Lenzelle was going to have a much better year last year, just because of how good he looked his Sophomore year.  If he can increase his shooting percentage and stay out of his extended slumps, I don't see why he can't be counted on for at least 12-14 points a game.  One overlooked trait  is how good of a rebounder he is.   He seems to go strong, and is able to out-rebound bigger opponents.  Getting a dozen a game (along with end of the year looking Craft) will definitely ease the load off of Q and Scott.  As for Amir, who knows.  I thought he would have a breakout year along with Lenzelle.  If he can just change his state of mind, and be 100% focused (maybe get a little meaner),  I want to remain an optimist and say he can be above average next year.

TMargo's picture

IMO this will be the deepest team in terms of "game experience" in the Matta Era.  Craft, Q, LZ, Scott, Thompson, Amir, all have Big Game experience.  Even Trey McD and Della Valle have some solid game minutes.  Now throw in the 2 freshman and if they can give 10-15 mins a night that's 10 players that Matta will be able to turn to.  Losing DT is huge but having 8 to 10 players in the rotation will provide more depth and opportunities to make up for DT's production.  So instead of needing 1 or 2 guys to drastically improve their numbers, 5-6 players can add up that missing "value".  I personally see this team carrying the torch quite well and no reason not to believe another Top 2 finish in conference and deep tourney run is in store for the Bucks. 

captain obvious's picture

Lenzelle underachieved this year. Hopefully he works on his game this summer and can have a great senior season. The Bucks are going to need him to be a lot more consistent to make a run next year.

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Gametime's picture

So far his ceiling is the bench - he'll never make an Euroleague squad playing like that. I know people didn't like the truth last season because it seems like we're not supporting the kid, but he's an excellent young man - just not a consistent hooper at this level.
Thad needs to hang out with Urban more or exchange philosophies - i.e. play your best guys no matter what. It's easier to buy into a defensive system and play with cohesion the more you actually play, but not everyone can score and we need guys who can light it up coming in. 
Hopefully the incoming freshmen will supplant LSJ...

Between goals and achievement is discipline and consistency. That fire you have inside to do whatever you love is placed there by God. Now go claim it. ~ Denzel Washington

pcuzz1's picture

I was really surprised/dissapointed on how much zelle seemed to fade off as the year progressed.  After that Nebraska game to open BIG play I thought he might be able to develop into that 2nd scorer behind DT.  Depnding on the matchup a certain game provides I would definitely not be opposed to seeing Scott start in place of Zelle, with Craft in the backcourt.  I do love the intensity that Zelle brings defensively, as well as in spurts on the offensive glass. Like most of you guys stated, his ceiling is probably 8-10 points a game.  If he could give us that, I will be more than happy as long as he can turn up the heat defensively, like he has shown he can.  Hoping for the best out of this kid next year.

pat cozzens