Rick Pitino is comparing Louisville guard Russ Smith to former NBA star Allen Iverson.
“We still have a little psycho all-American, named Russ Smith, still here,” Pitino said at AAC Media Day, according to Rick Bozich.
“I say that in a very affectionate way. I think Russ Smith is the closest thing at the collegiate level to Allen Iverson that I’ve seen. He’s just a great, great college player. I don’t think you’re ever out of the game because of his abilities.”
SMU coach Larry Brown, who coached Iverson with the Philadelphia 76ers, isn’t buying it.
“That’s not fair to him because, Allen, there is never going to be another one like him,” Brown said according to Bozich. “(Smith) plays with a reckless abandon and has this will to win that’s pretty special. You don’t win a national championship unless you have kids like him.
“I think it’s pretty neat that he came back to school. That’s not an easy decision. It speaks volumes for the kid and the relationship that he has and the respect he has for the program. He’s great.”
The Brooklyn native — who was named the AAC Preseason Player of the Year — flirted with jumping to the NBA after Louisville won the NCAA championship, but opted to return to campus for his senior year after Pitino told him NBA scouts wanted to see him work on his game.
“They want to see me more controlled, more of a point-guard mindset,” Smith said. “Honestly it’s something that I don’t really want to comment on. It kind of frustrates me because I feel like I do so many good things and I bring so much good to the table, that they want to see something that nobody else sees. But I’m working at it every day, just being more poised.
“They don’t want to see the one-on-one, the one-on-three breaks, not kicking it out on breaks. Just being more unselfish.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.