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Reviewing Dylan Smith’s first season at Arizona

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The UNC Asheville transfer was UA’s top bench scorer

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at California Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats’ season has ended, so we’re going to take a look back at how each player fared during the year and what’s next for them. Next up is Dylan Smith.

Dylan Smith

2017-18 stats

  • 4.3 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 1.1 APG, 14.6 MPG
  • 36.3 FG%, 33.0 3PT%, 81.0 FT%

Best games

  • vs. Texas A&M — 13 points, 4-5 FG, 3-3 3PT
  • vs. ASU — 9 points, 3-5 3PT
  • at Cal — 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 5-5 FG, 4-4 3PT
  • vs. Colorado — 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3-6 3PT
  • at Oregon — 11 points, 3-4 3PT

2017-18 in review

After sitting out the 2016-17 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Smith finally got a chance to make his Arizona debut in 2017-18.

Expectations weren’t that high for the former UNC Asheville Bulldog since he was perceived to be behind Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins, and Brandon Randolph on the totem pole, and it didn’t help that Smith was suspended for the season-opener after violating team rules.

Yet, the redshirt sophomore wound up becoming Arizona’s top bench scorer — albeit it was not a strong unit.

Smith was a terrific free-throw shooter, a decent 3-point shooter, and showed a nice ability to shoot off the dribble. But he struggled mightily as a slasher, shooting a team-worst 44 percent at the rim.

Smith also had a maddening penchant for turning the ball over, only trailing Alkins for turnovers per 40 minutes. That said, he did cut back on them as the season went on, committing just one turnover in Arizona’s last six games.

Despite being 6-foot-6 with long, gangly arms, Smith did not create much havoc on defense. He had the lowest steal percentage among UA’s rotation players (0.6), and Arizona allowed 1.09 points per possession when Smith was on the floor, a decline from the team’s overall mark of 1.03.

Smith was not much of a threat as a rebounder or distributor either — his entry passes were not the prettiest but he did show flashes of being able to drive and dish.

Overall, the best way to describe Smith’s contributions is serviceable but inconsistent. There were some games where his hot shooting helped Arizona immensely — the win vs. Texas A&M being the prime example — but there were also several games where he was a total non-factor.

But because of how unimpressive the rest of Arizona’s bench was, Smith’s shooting alone made him a useful piece for the Wildcats. He also had a couple solid starts when Alkins was sidelined with a foot injury.

Smith finished the season a sour note, though, scoring just four points in Arizona’s last four games. He missed 11 straight 3s during that span.

What’s next?

Smith is one of just six scholarship players returning to Arizona next season, and the Wildcats currently have zero incoming recruits, so he should see a major uptick in playing time as a redshirt junior.

Smith will likely be battling with Brandon Randolph and/or Emmanuel Akot for a spot in Arizona’s starting lineup, and could become one of the Wildcats’ featured scorers and ball-handlers.

Perhaps the biggest to-do for Smith this offseason is to become a more well-rounded player. His shooting stroke should carry over to the 2018-19 season, but the other facets of his game will need to improve for him to be considered a high-quality starter in the Pac-12.

If not, it is easy to imagine him staying in his sixth-man role. Either way, Smith — and the rest of Arizona’s returners — will have an instrumental role in how the team fares next season, given its recruiting woes.

Smith profiles as a 2 or a 3, but he could also see time at point guard next season since Alex Barcello is the only player returning at that position, though Smith has not exactly shown he is capable of handling a role like that.

Quotable

“(Coach Sean Miller) put a lot of faith in me to come in and be good for the team and have a role. I’m just following what he wants me to do. Whatever he needs me to do for the team, I’ll do it.” — Dylan Smith on coming off the bench at Arizona, despite being a starter at UNC Asheville

“If I ever get a chance to start here, I’ll take advantage of it.” — Dylan Smith


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire