Kenneth Smith is a 27 year old 190cm guard that was born in St Petersburg, Florida and grew up in Gulfport is playing his fifth professional season and first with Proximus Spirou Charleroi (Belgium-Euromillions League) after having started the season with Szolnoki Olajbanyasz KK (Hungary-A Division) playing 11 games averaging 11.7ppg, 4.2rpg, 7.5apg, 1.7spg, 2FGP: 50.0%, 3FGP: 29.8%, FT: 72.4%. He played the last four seasons in the G-League playing 183 games. He played a season with the Los Angeles D-Fenders and two seasons with the Grand Rapids Drive with his best season in 2018-2019 where he averaged 7.9ppg, 4.0rpg, 7.6apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 48.8%, 3PT: 26.9%, FT: 75.4%. He began his rookie season with VEF Riga (Latvia-LBL and finished with the Los Angeles D-Fenders (D-League) playing 39 games averaging 3.3ppg, 1.5rpg, 2.3apg. He played at Louisiana Tech University (NCAA) from 2011-2015 playing 137 NCAA games and in his senior year averaged 6.4ppg, 4.0rpg, Assists-5 (7.4apg), 1.9spg, FGP: 39.2%, 3PT: 36.5%, FT: 77.0%. He spoke to germanhoops.com before a Fiba Europe Cup game against medi Bayreuth.
Kenneth thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Welcome to Germany You recently hit German club medi Bayreuth with a sweet triple double despite losing the game. What loss was tougher to swallow that one or the 118-117 loss to Ft Wayne in the G-League where you also had a triple double?
I believe the loss against Medi was much more tougher, although the game at Fort Wayne prepared me for this moment that was just a regular season game that didn’t have much meaning besides statistics from playing in the G league. I have to say thank you to my teammates who have been so great to me since I have arrived in Belgium, I am so happy we can have such an accomplishment together because I couldn’t have done it without them.
Ex Fraport Skyliner Mike Morrison congratulated you. Both of you guys hail from St Petersburg, Florida. Is St Petersburg like a small town? How do you guys know each other and what kind of relationship do you guys have?
I grew up watching Mike Morrison in high school, he was one of the best players in Florida and he had been to consecutive state championships. Mike is one of three brothers who took over my city and was one of the top players at the time. I grew up looking at them for what they brought to the game of basketball which was so much swag and confidence to the game. When it was my turn I took over the city as well just from learning from them.
Welcome to Germany. Is this your first time to Germany? What do you know about the country Germany and it’s basketball?
I don’t know much about Germany, I know that the basketball here is very competitive and that one of my best friends plays here and he loves it.
Your playing your first season for Proximus Spirou Charleroi (Belgium-Euromillions League). What kind of experience has it been coming back to Europe? As a rookie you played in Latvia before playing in the G-League for some years.
Coming to Charleroi was a great opportunity for me I felt that I could learn the game more and have a chance to be a better player. The fans have been awesome and the coaching has been great as well. I appreciate my teammates for being so open to me and helping me out along the way. Latvia was a good situation that got me ready for where I am now.
Proximus Spirou Charleroi (Belgium-Euromillions League has been struggling a bit so far in the country league. Is this a classic example of a club still trying to find itself with 7 new imports?
I think our team has so much potential we just have had a few missed opportunities down the stretch late in games. I think the way we are competing in the fiba cup will help us out a lot in the Belgium league later down the season.
How helpful has Belgium veteran Alex Herville been for you in the early going? Has he been a guy that helped with the integration on and off the court?
Axel is the veteran leader that each team needs. He is very vocal throughout practices and games. His leadership is very good I like talking to him about the game of basketball, he is helping me grow as a basketball player as in reading the game.
You began the season with Szolnoki Olajbanyasz KK (Hungary-A Division) playing 11 games averaging 11.7ppg, 4.2rpg, 7.5apg, 1.7spg, 2FGP: 50.0%, 3FGP: 29.8%, FT: 72.4%. What kind of experience was it playing in Hungry? You put up good stats, but why didn’t you stay?
I loved my teammates in Szolnok we were growing to be a good team in that league. The reason I didn’t stay is because of the opportunity that presented itself in Belgium and I am happy with the decision I made in coming to Belgium. I believe where I am for my career right now this is the level I need to be playing at, the league is tough and a few fiba games helps me out as well.
Let’s talk about your game. If a coach told you to just score for 30 minutes and not concentrate on playmaking could you be a lethal scorer?
If a coach told me to score and not be a playmaker of course I could do that and would do it but only if that was the way to make the team win the game. I am a winner before anything and at all times my focus is to make sure that my team wins and that every one was happy on the court. Coach Sam brought me here to win and that’s what I want to do.
You’re a very good defender. What part of your defensive game do you take the most pride in?
I just really hate getting scored on, I try to really study my opponents on their one on one moves. The main focus is to just stay solid and force tough shots, sometimes they make them but most times they don’t and that’s why I take so much pride in my defense and I feel like I can be even better at it at times.
Your 27 years old. At this stage of your career on what things on your game are you working on most?
At this post in my career I am just working on being an elite scorer that can counter my passing ability. I want to be great in all areas in my game so being a dominant scorer and making big shots down the stretch is what I am trying to capitalize right now in my game.
You played NBA Summer League for the first time in 2018 after three seasons in the G-League. Often rookies out of college will play. What kind of experience was it playing NBA Summer League when your a veteran? Did you sense that teams are mostly concentrating on the young players than the older ones?
I was on a team in summer league where I wasn’t the focus on what was needed for the team. It was a great learning experience and I am very appreciative of the opportunity but sometimes you can be better but the decision isn’t to show your talents because the team isn’t investing in you like you had hoped so that’s just how it plays out sometimes.
Your best season was in the 2017-2018 season where you averaged : 7.9ppg, 4.0rpg, 7.6apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 48.8%, 3PT: 26.9%, FT: 75.4%. In the whole time that you were there did you ever feel like you were close to a NBA call up?
There were plenty of times playing in the G league where I feel like I should have been called up or been a two-way player. It doesn’t work that way though sometimes timing isn’t there or a team need isn’t there. I grew up a lot In the G league under a great coach Ryan Krueger who helped me be the player I am now in my pro Career.
Nowadays it seems like most guards can score. Guys that are strictly the playmaker with high assists and limited scoring aren’t present. Do you feel like you part of a dying breed? Another guy that likes to pass and scores little is Julyan Stone.
I don’t feel like I am in the dying breed at all I feel like I am what makes the game better I still feel there is a spot for me on a NBA roster my game will be brought to people attention and to this day the player I am I will always fight for who I am instead of being someone I’m not. I am working on everything that can make me a complete player even though I know I lack nothing. Soon someone will appreciate my game and what I bring to the table.
You were teammates with Josh Maguette. Is he like a role model for you? He has been close to the NBA for years and seen sporadic action and developed further in Europe. Now he is back in the NBA
I had a great time playing with Josh Magette in the G league I am happy for his growth and where he is now he is playing great and putting up great numbers.
As a rookie you played briefly with VEF Riga (Latvia-LBL): playing 8 VTB League games averaging 3.3ppg, 2.1rpg, 5.3apg, 1.1spg;and 3 Latvian LBL: 3 games: averaging 4.0ppg, 3.0rpg, 5.3apg, 1.0spg. Whatwas your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home?
I only played a few VTB games my rookie season in Vef Riga, what I can say is that experience prepared me to be where I am now which is a confident point guard whose still climbing the latter of greatness.
You played at Louisiana Tech (NCAA) from 2011-2015 reaching two Elite 8’s and one Sweet 16. Which tournament was the sweetest memory for you?
I played at Louisiana Tech Under coach Mike White, Dusty May who are the reason I was able to have such a great career my team won 3 conference championships and made it to the N.I.T 3 times. My sophomore year we were ranked for the first time in school history and I am so grateful to attend an amazing school.
You had many great games at Louisiana Tech. If you had to pick one game that meant the most to you which one would it be?
My favorite game at Louisiana Tech is obviously the Iona game in the NIT tournament. Where the game was back and forth all night. Two great offenses going back and forth it really came to who had the last possession of the game and we did where I ended up making a buzzer beater shot off of an Alex Hamilton perfectly missed shot to win the game.
How did head coach Michael White groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Coach White knew what I was really good at so what he did was help me balance out my game more by just making me a confident player. Showing me how to win games with my defense and just really keeping me confident at all times.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Raheem Appleby?
Me and Raheem never really got the chance to play one on one. But since our freshmen year on campus we have the best record of 5 on 5 pick up. We used to abuse the seniors when we were freshmen. And freshmen when we seniors. We were the perfect duo.
Who is the toughest player that you faced in the NCAA that reached the NBA?
The toughest player that I have faced in the NBA. We didn’t get those type of games in college because we were so good but Trevor Lacey from NC State I really thought he was good in college.
Please list your 5 best teammates of all-time?
All time 5 best teammates Raheem, Alex Hamilton, Jamel Morris Justin Harper, Zeke UpShaw
Please name your own personal NBA Rushmore?
Kobe, LeBron, Kevin Garnett, Shaq & Chris Paul.
What is your personal opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
LeBron and Michael is hard because it’s two different eras of basketball that they each could be great in so I really don’t debate lol it’s too much.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Last movie I saw was 8-Mile a classic move I watch from time to time for motivation.
Thanks Kenneth for the chat.