Smith gives Bighorns defense, rebounding |

Smith gives Bighorns defense, rebounding

Jesse Smith is like hundreds of players in the National Basketball Association Development League looking for the edge that could lead him to the promised land.

For Smith, that edge is the ability to score. He’s already an oustanding defender and rebounder, but if he also improves his offensive game, he may find himself playing someday in the NBA.

For now, Smith is trying to make it to the NBA while playing with the NBA-D League Reno Bighorns. Through the first two games of the regular season, Smith has had mixed results on the offensive end heading into tonight’s game against the Anaheim Arsenal in Anaheim.

Smith got off to an outstanding start in a 98-93 loss to the Bakersfield Jam in Reno on Saturday as he ent 7-of-9 from the floor on his way to scoring 15 points. But in Sunday’s 103-96 win at Los Angeles against the D-fenders, Smith struggled from the floor, going 2-for-11.

He did hit 4-of-5 free throws on his way to scoring eight points. But the most important thing for Smith was that the Bighorns were able to win their first game.

“A W on the road,” Smith said.

And Smith should always be counted on for his defense and rebounding as he was in the first two games. He grabbed 14 rebounds against Bakersfield and 13 boards against the D-fenders.

Smith got his first taste of the NBA-D League when he played 14 minutes in one game at the end of the 2007-08 season against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. The Vipers still had the rights to Smith when the Bighorns took him in this fall’s NBA-D League expansion draft.

After graduating from Idaho State in 2005, Smith spent his time playing in Portugal and Germany before landing in the NBA-D League.

“It’s a big step for me,” he said.

And the 6-11, 270-pounder knows it will likely take some time for if and when he makes it to the NBA.

“I’m going to play and see what happens basically,” he said. “It’s a waiting game.”

So far, Smith is enjoying his time in Reno and also enjoying his time with his Bighorn teammates.

“We’ve got a great team,” he said. “Everybody gets along together. We have good chemistry.”

And Smith says he’s enjoying playing for head coach Jay Humphries. “He’s great,” Smith said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing, where I need to be.”

Humphries has already made his mark with demanding practices with a typical 2 1/2 hour workout consisting of 90 minutes of constant drills, then a scrimmage, followed by windsprints.

“Actually I didn’t know what to expect. You’ve got to go with it and trust him,” said Smtih about Humphries’ practices. “It takes a toll on you. It’s really hard. You’re bascially broken down from practice and then you’ve got to go out and scrimmage.”

Another thing that Smith trusts Humphries on is the offense he runs. Smith said it’s a balanced attack. “Everyone gets their time for their shot and it’s open,” he said.

And since he’s a player trying to make it to the NBA, Smith said it’s exactly the offense he needs.