Aaron Craft. LaQuinton Ross. Amir Williams.
These are the names that come to mind first when most people think about the No. 3-ranked Ohio State men’s basketball team (15-0, 2-0).
Someone that doesn’t often make the headlines is senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr.
Smith Jr., the team’s lone senior aside from Craft, has been huge for the Buckeyes all season.
Currently second on the team in scoring with an average 12.7 points per game, and third on the team in both rebounding and assists with 4.9 and 1.6 respectively, Smith Jr. should be one of the stars of the team.
And yet he is less talked about then certain bench players like athletic junior forward Sam Thompson and sophomore guard Amedeo Della Valle.
The respect that Smith Jr. garners is not befitting of someone as vital as he is to the Buckeyes’ chances to success. He has scored in double figures in 11 of OSU’s 15 games this year, including a season high 20 in a 65-50 win against Wyoming Nov. 25.
But perhaps Smith Jr.’s best performance of the season came when he was at his worst.
Against Notre Dame Dec. 21, the Buckeyes were in danger of losing for the first time this season. Trailing by eight points with less than a minute remaining, OSU needed something to change to keep their unbeaten run alive.
That change came in the form of Smith Jr.
Failing to score up to that point in the game, Smith Jr. was struggling to make an impact. But in the final 50 seconds, he scored nine points and helped the Buckeyes go on a 14-3 run to win the game.
Even though the final box score reads only nine points, Smith Jr.’s contribution was the difference in the final stretch.
Players like Craft and Ross deserve their recognition, both are fantastic players, but the shadow they cast should not completely hide the work Smith Jr. has been doing for OSU.
He is third on the team in minutes, just behind Craft and junior guard Shannon Scott, with an average of 27 a game. He is also third on the team in field goal percentage, behind only the teams two centers, and second in 3-point percentage.
Although the season is not yet half over, the Buckeyes will need Smith Jr. to continue his stellar play if they hope to make another deep run in the NCAA tournament.
Maybe then the senior guard not named Craft will be recognized by Buckeye fans for everything he has done.