As a high school star at Noxubee County (Miss.) no one could question the talent of Shaun Smith on the basketball court.
The talented guard lit up opponents on a nightly basis with a sweet outside stroke and midrange jumper. The only knock surrounding Smith was could he remain healthy?
The 6-foot-6, 207-pounder went through a barrage of injuries in high school from his hip to his wrist but still managed 24.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 games for the Tigers as a senior in 2008-09.
Smith redshirted his initial season at Mississippi State while recovering from those injuries and appeared in 24 contests last year for the Bulldogs drawing a pair of starts. He averaged one point per game in 5.9 minutes usually off the bench for Ravern Johnson on the wing.
"From the injury standpoint, I'm building off of that for motivation," Smith said. "I'm going to use that a lot. Since I got that one year under my belt I'll kind of know what to expect."
During his rookie campaign, Smith shot 8-of-34 from the field including 5-of-18 from behind the arc. He also converted 3-of-6 from the free throw line and snagged 17 rebounds.
Smith acknowledged that he was still not completely healthy last season but feels 100-percent this summer as the Bulldogs prepare for a European exhibition starting next month traveling through Amsterdam, Belgium and Paris.
"We are doing a lot of conditioning right now trying to get ready for the August trip," Smith said. "This will be my first time ever going to a place like that. It's going to be a different thing for me playing against those types of guys, different competition. It's a business trip but at the same time we're going to try to enjoy ourselves while we are there too."
This summer is much different though for Smith and his teammates. No longer are they limited to working out and scrimmaging inside the Sanderson Center, which is open to the open student population. Now MSU has the luxury of their very own practice courts located in the Mize Pavilion that recently opened and is attached to Humphrey Coliseum.
"It's real nice," Smith said. "We are in here a lot now. We get bored sometimes and just come up here and get some shots up. It's so many goals and courts. Sometimes you just let the wall up and go on the girls' side if there's not enough room."
With Johnson gone due to graduation, Smith is competing with incoming five-star freshman Rodney Hood for the Bulldogs starting vacancy at the three spot.
"He's pretty good," Smith said of Hood. "We go at it during pick-ups. That will help me out from a defensive standpoint."
Smith stated that this summer he has concentrated more on his defense and quickness. He hopes that his added contributions will help State bounce back from a disappointing season a year ago.
"Last year was kind of a down year for us as far as our record," Smith said. "We were expected to win a lot more games and go further. This year we've pretty much got the same hype because we've got a lot of talent. Now we're just trying to make it all click."