The quote-worthy Ray Smith, a member of Arizona’s 2015 recruiting class, dropped another gem in his latest interview with PGU. When asked to describe what his role may be like as a Wildcat, Smith had a classic response.
“With versatility comes great responsibility,” he said. “There’s always something you could have done, you could’ve gotten that rebound, you could’ve taken your man, you could’ve one dribble pull up-ed, you could’ve posted the small guy up.”
Those are all things Smith can do. And those are all things he may have to do in his freshman season.
With Arizona likely to have numerous players selected in the NBA Draft next summer, Smith could walk into a rotation that needs him to log heavy minutes.
Luckily, he has the skill set to thrive in that type of role. Smith can handle the ball, pass, rebound, defend, and score. At 6-8 he has great height and length that will allow him to be effective close to the basket and on the perimeter. Wherever Sean Miller needs to deploy Smith, he should have the tools to succeed.
Therein lies the beauty in the way Miller has constructed his teams over the past least five years. He has always recruited incredibly versatile, diversely talented players to give his teams flexibility. And that formula has produced resoundingly successful results.
You can trace the theme back to Solomon Hill, who averaged 6.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.7 assists as a freshman and continued to produce a versatile stat line for the next four years. Whether it was through rebounding, setting up teammates, or scoring, Hill blossomed into a player that fit the “With Versatility Comes Great Responsibility” mold. Now he’s playing for the Indiana Pacers.
As an upperclassman, Miller relied heavily on Hill’s multi-faceted talent. The same kind of role could be coming for Smith.
Miller recruited another jack of all trades in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Just like Hill, Hollis-Jefferson can affect the game in a multitude of ways. As a freshman, Hollis-Jefferson’s versatility was on display as he proved to be a capable rebounder who could also make plays off the dribble.
Hollis-Jefferson’s true versatility comes on the defensive side, though. Capable of guarding point guards or power forwards, RHJ can cover the entire court. Just like Hill , Hollis-Jefferson gives Miller flexibility with the lineup.
The pattern continues again this year with newcomer Stanley Johnson, whose unique combination of size, strength, and skill is almost unmatched in college basketball. Johnson will be able to use his strength to abuse smaller defenders in the paint, while he has the quickness and perimeter skill to exploit defenders from outside as well.
And how can you forget about Brandon Ashley, who is one of the most versatile offensive weapons in the country. Ashley is a high efficiency scorer at the rim, can shoot out to the three point line, and can take his man off the dribble. There aren’t many post players in the conference or the country that can do all those things as well as Ashley can.
It’s a scary thought that Arizona will have Hollis-Jefferson, Johnson, and Ashley on the same team, and probably in the same lineup together.
But it’s also a scary thought that all three of those players could be on NBA rosters by this time next year.
So you can see the importance of having another Swiss Army knife type player on deck, waiting for his chance. Smith is the perfect candidate to carry the torch held by versatile Arizona players before him. He already knows the responsibility that comes with his talent.