By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
Even though Silas Smith won’t play basketball for Nevada anymore, Tigers coach John McNeley will still use him as an example for younger players.
“He’s shown what you can do if you commit yourself to being the best athlete you can be,” McNeley said. “Since he moved here as a freshman, he wanted to be the best basketball player he could be. He really maximized his abilities.”
Smith’s work ethic helped him earn a spot with NCAA Division II’s Southwest Baptist. The guard signed his letter of intent with the Bearcats on Monday at Nevada High School.
“I like Coach (Jeff) Guiot and his assistants,” Smith said. “I like their style of play, and I think I will fit in there. It will be close to home. My family can watch me play.”
Smith averaged 25.2 points this season, scoring 629 total points for the second-highest single-season total in program history. Smith also averaged 6.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists. He made 73 of 176 3-pointers for 41.5 percent and was an 82.4 percent free-throw shooter.
Smith finished with 1,117 career points and was named first-team all-state by the MBCA and the Missouri media.
Spending countless nights in the gym, McNeley said Smith worked hard to evolve into a complete player.
“When he got here, he was a shooter and strictly a shooter,” McNeley said. “And he was an inconsistent shooter. He’d have great nights, but he was inconsistent. As he went on, he got a little better off the dribble. This year, he had a complete game. He could score off the dribble, and he could hit that intermediate jump shot. He has a quick release to where you just can’t get to it.”
Smith played some point guard at Nevada, but he is expected to be more of a catch-and-shoot player in Bolivar, Mo.
“I think he’s a fit for their system,” McNeley said. “They like to get out and go. I think that’s something Silas can be very good at.”
Smith knows he must keep working to be ready for the MIAA.
“I’m definitely going to have to work on my defense and get stronger,” Smith said. “There are a lot of good athletes in that conference. My ballhandling can improve more. I need to work on the elevation of my jump shot.”