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Young and the Restless: Smith Posts Up
In January, Basketball Times, a publication covering collegiate basketball for over 25 years, ranked Liberty's 2008 recruiting class at No. 48 in the nation.
The Basketball Times ranked its Top 50, and Liberty joined No. 26 Xavier, No. 31 Rhode Island, No. 36 Fresno State, No. 36 New Mexico, No. 36 St. Louis, No. 41 Dayton, No. 50 Hofstra and No. 50 Gonzaga as the only schools that are not a part of a BCS football power conference.
After the Basketball Times Top 50 list came out, Liberty added Jesse Sanders and Bill Weaver to the incoming class, which would have given the Flames a higher place in the Top 50. Sanders decommitted from a verbal agreement with Conference USA member Rice to attend Liberty, while Weaver did the same at Brown.
The honored recruiting class is now on campus and LibertyFlames.com is going to highlight each freshman in this new seven-part series.
Smith, a 6-9 forward from Tucson, Ariz., transferred to Ironwood Ridge High School after beginning his prep career at Mountain View. Smith led Ironwood Ridge to the 4A Arizona State Championship, earning MVP honors for the state championship game. Smith earned second team all-state and first team All-Southern Arizona. He was the runner-up for player of the year in southern Arizona. As a senior, Smith set the Ironwood Ridge record for points scored in a season, while averaging 18.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals per game.
Smith picked Liberty after being pursued by Pepperdine, Richmond, San Francisco and Washington State.
Ritchie McKay's Quote Upon Signing Austin Smith
"I have known Austin for a few years and I really trust him," said McKay. "He has natural ability and athleticism that our fans will really like. He is skilled, can shoot the ball, has a great work ethic and the fact we can attract Austin from Tucson to Lynchburg, speaks to Liberty University and all it has to offer."
Sitting Down with Austin Smith
Why did you decide to attend Liberty?
I decided to attend Liberty because I didn't want to play for another coach besides Coach McKay. He is a very honest man and I wanted to play for a coach like that.
What was it about Coach McKay that made you want to come and play for him?
A lot of coaches in the recruiting process talk about how much they want you and how much they want you to come to their school. With Coach McKay it was different, when he was scouting me he was very upfront with the fact I wasn't in the shape I needed to be in to get a scholarship. He was the first coach in the recruiting process that went out of his way to improve me. That really stuck out in my mind and told me this is the type of coach I want to play for.
What does it feel like to be a part of a Top 50 recruiting class?
I love being part of a Top 50 recruiting class! I am glad it's here at Liberty.
You spent some time on campus this summer going to school and playing pickup games with most of the team. This is the first time you guys have all been together. How did you feel the team jelled?
We jelled pretty well this summer. We all were living together and away from our families. We had to rely on teammates to be our family, while away from home. It was an experience that brought us closer together.
How important is chemistry?
Chemistry is huge. If you don't like your team, you can't accomplish the goals you have set.
You won a state championship this past spring in high school and were MVP of the championship game. What part of that winning experience can you bring to Liberty?
We won a state championship with the combination of talent and great coaching. We all bought into the system and were unselfish. I already see that here. We have all bought into Coach McKay and the rest of the coaching staff. Even though we are only in individual workouts, we already know the offense like the back of our hand.
Thus far, how has the Liberty experience been for you?
The Liberty experience is much different than high school. I can tell you that because I went to a public high school. Going to a private Christian university is much different, but I absolutely love it!
In your short time in Lynchburg, have you found a favorite hangout yet?
Jeremy's (Anderson) house. His mom makes me these little snacks whenever I am over there. Its great!
You are the one player on the team who hails the farthest to Lynchburg. How has the transition been from the Wild West to Civil War territory in Central Virginia?
It is very different here than from back home. For example, for half the year the time zone is three hours away. So my girlfriend calls me when she wakes up and I have already done workouts, gone to class and had lunch. Once I adjusted to the time difference, I truly noticed how different the weather is. It's a good change and I continue to look forward to this experience.
Who is the one player on the team that would most likely be a contestant on the Bachelor with 25 women vying for that final rose?
Jesse Sanders. Oh my goodness (chuckling). Jesse is so smooth and would definitely be handing out a few roses in some of the most dramatic rose ceremonies ever.
Behind the Young and the Restless Schedule
Aug. 21 – Seth Curry
Aug. 28 – Brolin Floyd
Sept. 4 – Carter McMasters
Sept. 11 – Jesse Sanders
Sept. 18 – Austin Smith
Sept. 25 – Johnny Stephene
Oct. 2 – Bill Weaver