Kenneth “Speedy” Smith’s basketball journey has not been what one would call “ideal”, but he is making it work. The quick, pass-first point guard was a regular assist leader in Conference-USA as a member of Louisiana Tech. In his four-year college career, Smith was a two-time member of the Conference-USA All-Defensive Team, two-time Conference-USA first team member and, was named the Conference-USA Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 as well as, Conference-USA Player of the Year in 2015.
After going through a series of pre-draft workouts in 2015 Smith did not have the luxury of hearing his name called at the 2015 Draft. Going undrafted in 2015 has not stopped the now 24-year-old from continuing to pursue his goal of getting to the NBA.
At just 24 years of age, Smith has already played on multiple teams. He spent a season in Europe but he returned back to North America shortly after. At the end of the NBA G-League’s 2016-2017 season, Smith was traded from the Los Angeles Defenders to the Grand Rapids Drive (Detroit).
In a recent interview for Fadeaway World, Smith spoke about the differences between playing in Europe versus in the NBA G-League, advice he has received from KJ McDaniels, what it takes to be an unselfish point guard as well as, how he prepared for the recent NBA G-League Showcase.
On playing in Europe and return to North America:
As previously noted, Smith spent the 2015 season playing overseas in Europe. Part of what helped Smith get back to North America was the confidence he developed while getting his first taste of professional basketball. It also offered him a good reality check. He states that:
Kenneth Smith: “What brought me back to the States was me having confidence that I am good enough for the NBA. Being overseas was a good thing for me as far as experience wise and, just seeing the level of talent of where I was at. I believe I am an NBA point guard and being overseas I just felt at the time I wanted to showcase myself in front of scouts and be critiqued and what I needed to be better with and do my best to improve.”
Smith also touched on one of the differences he noticed between playing overseas versus playing in America:
Kenneth Smith: “I believe overseas it’s more of a whose smarter to play the game. In America, the game has a lot to do with athleticism and your potential”
Getting everyone involved:
One thing that Smith prides himself on is getting his teammates involved. Throughout his college basketball career, he was an unselfish point guard and did a very good job of creating for others and getting everyone involved in the play. This unteachable skill has also transpired over into his play in the NBA G-League. In fact, Smith is recently coming off a game where he scored 10 points and dished out a whopping 15 assists. In our interview with the Grand Rapids Drive point guard he had this to say about the way he plays the game of basketball:
Kenneth Smith: “I just like making my teammates better. I feel as a point guard the first thing to do Is make sure everyone’s involved and feel apart of whatever is going on. I’ve always been a pass-first guy. I just try to make everyone confident and put them in position to look great and feel like they are getting better.”
While he is currently averaging a little over 8 points and 7 assists per game, he also knows that not everything he does will show on the stat sheet. Smith does not seem to be phased by this as he continues to develop as an elite level point guard:
Kenneth Smith: "Sometimes what I bring to the table won’t always show up on the stat sheet. But as I keep growing and trying to take advantage of opportunities more and more things will become visual to everyone”
On the advice he received from KJ McDaniels:
Unlike many players in the NBA G-League, Smith has had the unique opportunity to pick the brains of a former full-time NBA Player.
Speedy’s teammate KJ McDaniels has played in 148 NBA games for the likes of the Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers as well as, the Brooklyn Nets. Having a player with McDaniels’ experience on his team has been extremely beneficial for the young guard thus far in his career.
Kenneth Smith: “KJ offers a lot of advice to me with the game and his experience. He tells me I am a great point guard but there’s a lot of things I have to do to grab full attention to scouts. He thinks there’s another level I have to get to and I agree with him.”KJ is a very smart basketball player and his style of play helps me into developing what I need to do to improve from where I am at”.
On the recent NBA G-League Showcase:
The NBA G-League Showcase is one of the marquee events that the league offers. All of the G-League’s teams gather in Toronto to play not only in front of NBA players but also, scouts. For many G-League athletes such as Smith, with dreams of playing in the NBA, the Showcase offers a valuable opportunity for them to play in person in front of potential NBA suitors. With the addition of two-way contracts, there a record number of G-League players getting the call up to NBA Rosters.
Now more than ever, playing in the NBA’s premier development is leading to a more successful call-up rate. Playing well at the “Showcase” can instantly increase a G-League prospects stock within an NBA front office. Smith had this to say when asked about how he prepared to play on the NBA G-League’s biggest stage:
Kenneth Smith: “The G-League showcase is just like any game to me because scouts are watching all season whether they are visually in attendance, looking online, or, the even most time following stars. So the event to me is just like any other game. It’s just everyone’s there visually and to some there’s a lot more pressure to want to be great and succeed.”
We would like to once again thank Mr. Smith for taking the time out of his hectic schedule to speak to us at Fadeaway World. As Smith continues to show promising signs of point guard potential, he will likely find himself on the radar’s of NBA teams in the near future. For now, the long winding road to the NBA runs through Grand Rapids. With Smith recently assuming the starting point guard duties for the Drive, he is surely ready to face whatever challenges may come his way.