Smith-Rivera confidently scoring for winning Hoyas

Smith-Rivera confidently scoring for winning Hoyas
March 11, 2013, 8:00 pm
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If any trait defines college basketball freshmen, fluctuating confidence tops the collective list. In that sense, Georgetown's D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is no ordinary rookie.

No doubt, the compact guard has gone through adjustments. There has been a new offensive system to learn. Through parts of the season, minutes fluctuated. Also, a significant rise in competition even though he starred during his final high school season at powerful Oak Hill Academy.

Still, when it comes to self-assurance, there is another faction of player Smith-Rivera's mental approach best fits.

"He's a scorer, he's a shooter," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said of the perimeter threat before Monday's practice. "Most of those guys, if they miss, they think the basket moved. He falls into that category. He knows he can put the ball into the basket."

How Smith-Rivera, named to the Big East's All-Rookie team on Monday, fared in two wins over Syracuse exemplifies his own shot-making faith.

Following Saturday's 61-39 trouncing over Syracuse, No. 5 Georgetown (24-5, 14-4) enters this week's Big East Tournament as the top seed. The Hoyas play either Providence or Cincinnati at noon on Thursday inside Madison Square Garden.

Coming off a career-best 33-point performance against DePaul, the 6-foot-3 guard made his first trip to the Carrier Dome last month. Outside of the 58-47 win, the experience inside the cavernous arena and playing against the Orange's tricky 2-3 zone was not exactly memorable for "DSR". He missed seven of eight shots including four of five from beyond the 3-point arc.

Before the Hoyas had left New York, Smith-Rivera showed his coach that despite the clanking he remained in a confident state of mind.

"Immediately after that game, he knew he had some open looks that he normally would put in," Thompson said. "He told me - we're still in the locker room in the dome or definitely before we got home - next time I'm not going to miss those shots coach."

Next time came this past Saturday. With Otto Porter quiet offensively early, Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks, who also missed plenty of shots at Syracuse, each had a personal eight-point scoring run before halftime.

Smith-Rivera made his first 3-point attempt, then his second. Later he knocked down his third shot from beyond the arc en route to scoring 11 of the Hoyas final 17 points before halftime. Another pair of jumpers came in the second half, helping fuel the rout as Georgetown clinched a share of the Big East regular season title.

"The first game, we had those same looks, they just didn't go down," Smith-Rivera said. "This time we wanted to come back around and knock those shots down."

The freshman finished with 15 points in the victory, the ninth time over the last 14 games he has scored in double figures. Smith-Rivera ranks fourth on Georgetown with 9.0 points per game.

"Everyone would love to hit the ground running 100 miles per hour. Most people it takes some time to get settled in. He's a very good offensive player and he's settled into his rhythm."

He's also provided Thompson with another potent scoring weapon - and defenses another concern besides Porter and Starks.

The box score from the latest win also provided further proof that the kid is also more than just a point-producer. Smith-Rivera had five rebounds, five assists and three steals in Saturday's win

"I've never at any time lost any confidence in my game," Smith-Rivera said. "It was just more of an understanding of when to get shots and when to find my teammates."

Next up for the Indianapolis native is getting up to speed on the Big East Tournament. Essentially, this is final version of the bright lights/big city affair, at least with the current mix of programs.

Asked about gearing for the tournament, the usually cool freshman grinned. "I'm starting to get the picture now that everybody is asking me about."

The Hoyas are now attempting to win the program's eighth Big East Tournament title and first since 2007. Such a scenario seemed improbable after losing second-leading scorer and notable defender Greg Whittington to an academic suspension -- and following a 0-2 start in conference play.

Instead, Georgetown rallied with wins in 12 of its final 13 games. Smith-Rivera and fellow wing guard Jabril Trawick stepping into the Whittington void helped the cause.

"Outstanding year, should be rookie of the year," Starks said of Smith-Rivera. "He's been playing fantastic. The last 10 games he's been in double figures every game almost. Come on man, come on. He's stepped into a very pivotal role. Substituting he and Jabril into a very important role with Greg going out. He's picked up his scoring, Jabril brings the energy. It's been outstanding."