Smith working on his game, body and mind
Ready for sophomore season, he’s motivated, more mature
COLLEGE PARK — The image remains clear seven months later, if only for the sheer emotion of sadness and mental anguish Jalen Smith showed leaving the court after Maryland’s 69-67 defeat to LSU in the second round of last season’s NCAA tournament.
Smith, who would have been the hero had the Terps advanced to the Sweet 16, instead thought he had cost his team the game by allowing Tigers guard Tremont Waters to slither past the 6-10 freshman on his way to a game-winning scoop shot.
With one of his massive forearms wrapped around the seemingly inconsolable Smith, Bruno Fernando helped his young teammate to the locker room. There, Smith shed more tears as reporters asked questions between sniffles and snippets of monosyllabic answers in which the former Mount Saint Joseph star blamed himself.
Comforting words from his other teammates, as well as from Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and members of his staff, helped Smith move on.
“The coaches told me that I played well and pretty much the reason we got there was because of how hard I was playing,” Smith recalled Thursday afternoon after practice. “I’m always going to think, ‘Oh, I could have blocked that shot’ but things come and go and I gave everything I had. I was happy with myself.”
Smith and his Maryland teammates — minus only Fernando, who is now an NBA rookie — are using the way last season ended as motivation for the 2019-20 season set to begin Tuesday night at home against Holy Cross. And Smith seems like a different person, not just physically, but emotionally as well.
“I would say I’m the same guy, but there were some things I had to tweak about