By: Steve Miller – Sports Editor
Scoochie Smith may defy the laws of physics with layups in the paint, but in the classroom he is forced to follow in Isaac Newton’s footsteps. So was the case this week when he partnered with a student uninterested in gravity…or basketball.
Lucy Bratton, a junior graphic design major, found herself immersed in Physics Universe Lab–a science course she must reluctantly take in order to graduate. Faced with a free fall experiment that required not only an understanding of kinematic equations but also Microsoft Excel, Bratton decided to let her partner bear the load.
“I worked on a whole physics lab with Scoochie Smith, and didn’t realize it was him and that he’s a big deal until the end of class,” Bratton said. “Also, I made him do all the work because I’m scientifically impaired.”
“Well, [we both] didn’t really know what we were doing,” Smith said following last Saturday’s win over St. Bonaventure. “But I did most of the work.”
That’s quite appropriate given that Smith also had to shoulder the load against the Bonnies. He led the Flyers with 19 points and was the catalyst for making up a 15-point first-half deficit. Picking up the slack is just part of life for the darling of Dayton basketball.
In deference to Bratton, though, she is familiar with Smith, just not his birth name.
“In my defense, my professor calls him ‘Dayshon’,” Bratton said. “So how was I supposed to know?”
A true fan may be flabbergasted by the fact that a fellow Flyer did not recognize the point guard, but it’s not as though Smith has attained Christian Laettner status on campus.
“I wouldn’t say necessarily I feel like a celebrity, but I am recognized walking to class from time to time,” said Smith. “It’s something I will definitely miss [after college.]”
Nevertheless, Smith had to switch to full-on student mode in the lab.
“She told me she didn’t know what she was doing,” Smith said. “But I’m good at figuring things out.”
A glance at a single offensive possession for the Flyers would reveal the same information. And the tenacity with which Smith approaches his role as a point guard indeed extends into his academic life.
“I’m just trying to finish up strong like we do in the games,” he said about his last collegiate semester. “You know, attend my classes, do my work, and get my degree on the seventh of May.”
Smith is part of a senior class that has now won more games than any single class in UD basketball history. Along with Kyle Davis, Kendall Pollard, Jeremiah Bonsu, Joey Gruden, and Charles Cooke, who transferred his junior season, the class has now won 100 games as of Tuesday.
Having a strong core stick together in Division I basketball is rare nowadays. The NBA requires players to be removed just one year from high school before they can begin their professional careers. So stars on teams in Power Five conferences often leave for money and fame after just one or two seasons in school.
“This day in age, you very rarely have classes that can stay together. Sometimes guys transfer, sometimes there’s things that happen that don’t allow that,” head coach Archie Miller said of the class. “But I think in [these] guys’ case is they’ve had a role from day one here, sometimes smaller, sometimes bigger. And then thrust into a career opportunity their sophomore year where they played just so many minutes together has allowed those guys to sort of grow up together and be… the backbone to what we do.”
Their freshman year, Smith, Davis and Pollard experienced the thrill of an Elite Eight run. But the next year, to which Miller alluded, they helped anchor the “Small Ball Seven” after two seniors were dismissed from the team early in the year. That group, though, went on to win two NCAA Tournament games.
Then the next year, the class got a major boost with the addition of Cooke.
“Charles being integrated with his year off, he just became one of them,” Miller said.
After transferring from James Madison University, Cooke sat out the “Small Ball Seven” season, and then joined the class for his redshirt junior year. He was lauded for so seamlessly blending into the fabric of the team. Cooke became the leading scorer for the Flyers, averaging 15.6 points per game. A true shooting guard, he is considered the most concrete NBA prospect on the team.
“We have four guys here with five games left. And as the coach, I’m trying to do everything I can to have those guys max out their opportunities,” Miller said. “And I think the good thing about those guys is they’re all engaged right now, they’re all doing a very good job in all areas that we’re asking them to. And the hope would be for those guys to be able to finish strong.”
As Smith said, that strong finish refers to the classroom as well. Even if some people don’t know who he is.
Photo by Christian Cubacub – Multimedia Editor