UCLA senior guard, Chris Smith is never too proud to say that he still has room for growth. Last season, he led the team in scoring average and came in second in rebounding average. Currently, he comes in second on the team with 12.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while shooting at 44 percent in three-point shots.
In the Pac-12, Smith is sixth in defensive rebounds with 5.0 defensive rebounds per game. On December 1, he earned a spot on the John R. Wooden Awards Preseason Watch list.
During his time at UCLA, Smith scored 8.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. With Smith being the only senior on the team, he is focusing on leading his teammates.
“I still got plenty of room to grow, still got a bunch of things I’ve got to work on,” Smith said. “I try to be, I’d say, the fifth coach on the court.”
Smith, a Chicago native, has been working on being more vocal; he is also improving his ball handling and decision-making skills.
“A lot of my turnovers were created off of my careless ball handling last year, so it’s something that I’ve been working on,” he said. “Tightening up my shot, I’m not missing any more open shots.”
UCLA men’s basketball head coach, Mick Cronin, praised Smith for having a great attitude and having a good sense of humor.
“From day one, he’s just had a tremendous attitude so his rate of improvement, it’s been very impressive to say the least,” Cronin said. “He’s a humble kid, he’s a bright guy, great parents.”
Smith holds his teammates accountable as they all do their best to avoid catching the Coronavirus. After waking at 7:00 A.M. to be at the gym for COVID-19 testing by 8:00 A.M., the team spends the morning in practice. Afterwards, Smith goes home to do homework.
“All the guys are putting basketball first,” Smith said. “We have class and that’s the number one thing, but after that is putting our team first and all the guys have done that so far.”
The quarantine has helped the Bruins deepen their bond as they are not allowed to hang out with people outside of the team.
His dedication to basketball paid off in the Bruins triple-overtime victory against the Pepperdine Waves in November. Smith had a season high of 26 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists, helping UCLA win 107-98.
“When he rebounds and he defends, he’s a real player … He’s got a real chance to impact the game,” Cronin said. “It’s just a matter of competing on the glass and rebounding the ball.”