Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

North Hills Grad Shining in the Sun

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

North Hills Grad Shining in the Sun

Article excerpt

Jim Crutchfield was ready to give Nick Smith the whole spiel about Nova Southeastern University, ready to hard-sell a Pittsburgh kid with dreams of playing Division I basketball on coming to Florida to play Division II basketball.

But once the career scoring leader at North Hills High School arrived in Fort Lauderdale, saw palm trees and heard about the beaches, well, Crutchfield didn't have to make much of a recruiting pitch after all.

"No convincing," Crutchfield recalled with a laugh. "It took zero."

And as temperatures in Western Pennsylvania keep going down, and Nova Southeastern's win total keeps going up, Smith's college choice keeps looking better and better. Smith, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound freshman guard who was a two-time Post-Gazette Fab Five selection, moved into the Sharks starting lineup seven games ago and has been a key cog in Crutchfield's turnaround job just north of Miami.

Smith ranks third on the team in scoring (14.4 points per game), rebounding (5.7) and assists (2.6) entering the week. He was hitting a team-best 48.1 percent from 3-point range (26 of 54) and is shooting 51.6 from the field overall in 27.8 minutes per game. Oh, and the Sharks started the season 10-3 in their first year under Crutchfield - the highly successful longtime West Liberty coach - after going 6-20 in 2016-17.

"He's gotten the ball to the rim, he's shooting 50 percent from the floor, and that's always great for basketball," Crutchfield said of Smith, "but he brings the energy, I think, to practice every day and a positive attitude. You see the things he does on the court, but I just think off the court - you know, sometimes practice can be kind of dull and kind of a grind, but with Nick around, he makes it more fun with his personality."

Crutchfield, who brought the highest career winning percentage for a 10-plus-year NCAA men's basketball coach at any level to his new school, calls his first recruit at Nova Southeastern "a little bit of a free spirit" who spends as much time at the beach as possible. Smith himself said his practice schedule doesn't allow for too many lounging opportunities, but it's not uncommon to pile into a teammate's car and drive the 20 minutes or so it takes to get to the ocean. …

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