Smith work­ing on his game, body and mind

Ready for sopho­more sea­son, he’s mo­ti­vated, more ma­ture

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - COMMENTARY - By Don Markus

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

JONATHAN NEW­TON/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

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