Dayton’s Scoochie Smith passes against La Salle on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, at Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia. David Jablonski/Staff

Dayton Flyers senior Scoochie Smith poised for big season

Griffin ‘nagged the crap out of him’ to get him to come to UD.

Editor’s note: The Dayton Flyers start the season Nov. 11. In the 26 days leading to the opener, the Dayton Daily News will explore different aspects of the program in the A-Z Guide to Dayton Basketball. This is the 19th installment. S: Scoochie Smith.

The Bronx, N.Y., native Smith will go down as a key player for three NCAA tournament teams and maybe four if the Flyers advance to the big dance again in 2017. Dayton has won 78 games in his career, leaving it 19 short of tying the school record for most wins in a four-year period.

Smith has played in 106 games, leaving him 32 short of tying Chris Johnson (2008-12) for most games played in a UD uniform. He has scored 847 points, and if he matches his 11.7 scoring average from last season, he’ll finish 29th in UD scoring history. He will also finish among the school’s all-time leaders in assists. With 354, he already ranks 13th.

“I think he can be one of the best point guards not just in the A-10 but across the country,” Dayton assistant coach Allen Griffin said. “I truly believe that. I’m not saying that just because of our relationship. I’m saying that because of what I see every day. I see his ability.”

PHOTOS: Best shots of Scoochie Smith

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Griffin saw Smith’s talents before anyone associated with UD. He was the coach in charge of recruiting Smith. That process started when Smith was a junior at the Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut.

“I didn’t know a lot about him,” Griffin said. “I knew he was at a really good program prior to leaving for Putnam, which was Rice High School. We just lost Jevon Thomas. Long story short, Jevon decommitted, and we needed to get a point guard right away. That class was important because we were losing Kevin Dillard. We really only had one point guard in the program, which would be Khari Price. We had to get another point guard.

“I’m searching around and searching around, and the next thing you know, I’m calling my friend Adrian Autry, who was at Syracuse. They had their Elite Camp, and he said you should look at this kid Scoochie.He said, ‘He’s from the Bronx. Pull him up, look at his highlights and call me back.’ His lingo was, ‘He’s nice.’ I said, ‘OK, I’m going to look him up.”

The name Scoochie caught Griffin’s attention. Then he googled Smith

“When I look at his highlight tapes, he’s really skinny,” Griffin said, “but the one thing that stood out is he can shoot the ball. He had deep range on his shot, and he was very shifty with the ball. That kind of drew my interest. The thing that took me back about Scooch when I first saw him was how skinny he was. Scooch was exceptionally skinny. I have to be honest with you. He was like a little string bean.”

Dayton’s Scoochie Smith passes against La Salle on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, at Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia. David Jablonski/Staff
Photo: Staff Writer

Smith is 6-foot-2, 185 pounds now. He weighed 170 as a senior in high school, according to Rivals.com, which ranked him 106th in the class of 2013. Griffin also took notice of Smith because he’s from New York City, too — Brooklyn, to be specific — and knows the quality of play in the city.

“Once I saw the highlight video, I called Adrian back and said, ‘He can play,’” Griffin said. “He said, ‘I’m telling you he can play.’ I started calling around, gathering information about him. Once I started to speak to two, three, five people, the thing I really got intrigued by was that everybody loved the dude. Everybody knew him, but they also really liked him. I’m saying if I’m doing my job, why have I not known about this kid? He was one of those kids who was late-blooming, always had some abilities, but his size, being as skinny as he was, people kind of looked past him a little bit.”

Illinois and Providence were recruiting Smith. Duquense was going after him the hardest. Other programs were starting to show interest.

“I went up to the high school and watched him play a little open gym,” Griffin said. “Scooch was skinny. But he had really abilities. He was really quick. Kevin Dillard was quick with the ball and shifty. I said Scooch has an opportunity to one day surpass Kevin with what we do because of how quick he was with the ball, and Scooch was taller than Kevin. That really really got my juices going and gave me the ability to sell him to coach (Archie) Miller.

“Scooch was a smart kid in terms of knowing what he wanted. Obviously he had an opportunity to play as a freshman with only one point guard in the program. He saw that. Our relationship and my relationship with people surrounding him gave me trust with Scooch, and I nagged the crap out of him — I’m not going to lie, every day, two or three times a day — to the point where Scoochie said to me, ‘Coach, listen, I like you a lot, but you’re calling me more than my girlfriend.’ I said, ‘Well, get used to it.’”

Every day, Allen would text or call him to ask, “What’s going on? What are your doing today? Are you getting some shots up,” wanting to stay in his mind as much as he could.

“I knew how important he was going to be to us,” Griffin said, “because No. 1 we had the need but also No. 2 once you get to know him and get to know a lot about him, you can tell he’s going to be a guy you like to coach. He’s one of us, blue collar, just about getting results and winning. Scooch was always a team guy.”

Smith paid an official visit to UD in September 2012 and committed weeks later.

“The one good thing about Scooch is he’s very mature,” Griffin said. “He knew exactly what the team was looking for. Once he got to campus and he saw what UD was about for himself, it was easier for him to say, ‘Hey, listen I’m coming to Dayton.’ The opportunity to play right away was there for him. He really hit it off with Arch once he was on his visit. Those guys got along, and he got a chance to see ‘OK, this is the guy who’s going to coach me for four years.’ And that relationship took off. He believed in him. He believed in his ability to make him a better player.”

Four years later, Griffin said Smith is the same guy except in terms of his physical development.

“He’s going to be a big piece just like those other three seniors in terms of making sure we honor the process day in and day out for the rest of the year,” Griffin said. “Teaching young guys the way to do it and how to win basketball games is important. You don’t just show up. He’s been through it for three straight seasons. This is his fourth. I just expect big things. He’ll be an all-league guard. He’ll be one of the big reasons whether we have success or we don’t have success. That’s not to put pressure on him. He’s that good of a player but also that important of a player for us.”

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