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Flames Feature: Look To The Sky --- Anthony Smith
The high-flying athletic display which is currently touring the Big South circuit is better known as Liberty sophomore guard Anthony Smith. The Plano, Texas, native boasts Liberty's most exciting athleticism, captivates the Vines Center faithful and silences opponents' crowds on the road with his energetic and vigorous dunks.
It wasn't always a high-flying act for the 20-year-old. Smith actually couldn't dunk until he was 17, after he had finished growing into his 6-4 frame. "I first dunked as a junior in high school, but it wasn't until the summer between my senior year and coming to Liberty when I started developing some showtime in my dunks," said Smith.
The guard has quieted a few crowds during the season with his theatrics, including a capacity crowd at Florida's O'Connell Center against the defending national champion Gators.
During the game against Florida, Smith scored 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, grabbed three rebounds, dished out two assists and had three steals. Best of all, observers could hear the pin drop after each of his two acrobatic dunks. "Florida is big-time and I had a really good game," said Smith. "The dunks made it a bigger game for me, gave me momentum like no one could stop me and showed me that I could really play with those guys. It serves as my favorite on-the-court memory in my short time at Liberty so far."
Smith's three steals were a part of 15 total steals Liberty had during the game, which still ranks as the most steals an opponent has managed against the Gators this season.
"That game really made our backcourt look good. We went up against some of the best guards in the nation in Corey Brewer, Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey. The way our guards played against those guys made me really feel like I made the right choice to come to Liberty."
Liberty is fortunate Smith made that choice. Smith was heavily recruited by more than a dozen schools, with offers coming from Oral Roberts, Bucknell, Sam Houston State, UNC Wilmington and Stephen F. Austin.
The Florida game represents only a glimpse of what Smith has done during his short career and is a glimmer of what to expect in the future. In the midst of only his second season, Smith has become the 45th player in Flames Basketball history to reach 500 career points.
"It's a great accomplishment to get to that milestone this early in my career," said Smith. "I haven't really thought about numbers because I have spent all my concentration and worry on winning."
Smith came to Liberty out of Plano East High School just outside of Dallas, Texas. When Smith's mother moved to Woodbridge, Va., and remarried, the Lynchburg campus became an ideal spot to continue his education and basketball career.
"When I took my visit to Liberty, I really liked the family environment and the guys I would be playing with," said Smith. "With the close proximity to my mother and stepfather, it became an easy decision to come to Liberty."
Landing Smith has been a great addition to an already athletic team. As a freshman, Smith earned Big South all-freshman team honors while scoring 9.2 points per game, ranking second on the team. Smith also was named Big South Freshman of the Week twice during the 2005-06 season.
Those numbers have increased as a sophomore as Smith has continued to make the difficult transition from high school to Division I basketball. "The transition has been a hard one from high school," said Smith. "All the players are scholarship players with extreme talent and I am trying to continue to learn and get better."
Get better is something Smith is definitely accomplishing. Smith has improved all of his statistical numbers, including his field goal percentage and his three-point field goal percentage. After shooting 37.9 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from the three-point arc a year ago, Smith has improved by 10 and 20 percent, respectively, in those categories this season.
"Anthony really had a great offseason working on his shot and working out in the weight room," said head coach Randy Dunton. "He has made himself very physical when penetrating toward the basket."
Smith also prides himself on his defense. "I like playing defense the most," said Smith. "I thrive on taking the opponent's best player out of the game and then scoring on them."
Off the court, Smith or "Smitty" to friends and teammates, is kind spirited, friendly and a goofy kid at heart. "I am still a big kid and love doing things that I used to do when I was 12 -- like playing video games," said the sophomore.
Smith at first glance might appear to be shy and quiet, but once you get to know him, his true personality comes out. "I love being around people similar to me; when you get Larry (Blair) and me together, we have a real silly time," stated Smith.
When it comes to video games, Smith stands out from the crowd. "I am really into video games and am in the process of upgrading my Play Station 2 to the Play Station 3," added Smith. When it comes time to play basketball video games, Smith looks no further than the current 2K7 College Basketball hoops game, where he can play as himself with the Liberty Flames.
"I used to always create myself on these games in the past, but now I can play as Liberty, play myself and I love that," said Smith with a big smile. "People say that my shot on the game looks like me, but I don't see it. They are accurate, however, with the headband that I wear from time to time."
Smith is currently studying interior design and after college has plans to go into business with his stepfather. "My step dad makes all types of furniture and has plans to move back to Dallas to open up a store," said Smith. "I want to go back after graduation and work with him and get into real estate on the side."
Smith was born in Oklahoma. Smith's father, Anthony Smith, Sr., was stationed at Tinker Air Force Base when Junior entered the world. Despite being born in the Sooner State, Smith will forever call Texas home. The state motto is "Don't Mess With Texas," which is a marketing campaign to not litter in the Longhorn state.
"Don't mess with Texas because Texas is beautiful," said Smith. What else is beautiful is the flair and athleticism Smith brings to the court. As the Flames continue to move on in Big South action, look to the sky as number five, Anthony Smith, will lead the aerial attack on opponents at "The Furnace" atop Liberty Mountain. But always remember how much better it is to make them go quiet on the road!
By Vincent Briedis
Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director