Nick Smartt had some big shoes to fill entering his senior season.
Southern Fulton's shooting guard averaged 15.2 points per game last year, helping the Indians finish 22-3 and as Sideling Hill League and Inter-County Conference champions.
SF lost its two P.O. First Team players from that team, Seth Hall and Damon Gordon, leaving a lot of pressure on the Indians' top returning scorer.
"I came into the season thinking I had to be a big part of the team," Smartt said.
That pressure eventually found Smartt with the ball in his hands as the team's point guard. But that experiment took him away from what he does best: score.
As a result, SF coach Kent Hendershot moved Smartt back off the ball and into the shooting guard role in which he's thrived before. The result: A 19.5 points per game average and a 2-1 week for the Indians - capped off by a 25-point effort in a 65-30 win over Everett - that earned Smartt P.O. Male Athlete of the Week honors.
"Now he's getting better looks and you can tell he looks more comfortable," Hendershot said.
While the luxury of having Hall and Gordon cutting and dishing no longer exists, Smartt attributes much of his ability to fill the role of go-to guy on his two former teammates.
"Watching them grow up and play Indian baksetball, I've been able to model myself off of the things they did," Smartt said.
"He's a great kid. He works his tail off at both ends of the floor," Hendershot said.
Smartt said, "I've been getting a lot of good looks (lately) because of good defense.
Smartt has had the benefit since he started playing basketball at age 5 of one constant teammate wherever he has played - twin brother Noah.
"I can't imagine playing without him," said Nick. "It's comforting to know if I have a bad game he'll be there to comfort me."
Sometimes the Smartt twins aren't only on the same court, but on the same page.
"A couple of times we'll be thinking the same thing," Nick said. "We'll be walking around the house singing the same song or something. When we're on the court, a lot of the time he'll know when I'm getting hot and just keep feeding me the ball."
The Indians might as well keep dishing Smartt the rock. Last week Nick drained eight 3-pointers, while knocking down 14 of his 17 free throw attempts. Smartt feels things are coming together.
"We've been close to where we could be a 10-3 or 11-2 team right now," Smartt said. "We've had a couple of disappointing losses, but I think we're really clsoe to busting it open."
His coach agrees.
"We had three good games last week," Hendershot said. "I think we've turned the corner."
Jeff Kolb can be reached at 262-4819 or email@example.com.
Nick Smartt, Southern Fulton
Position: Shooting Guard
Parents: Scott and Karen Smartt
Interests: Hunting, fishing and going to church.
Surprising fact: He likes reading Bible verses before games on his iPhone.
Favorite pro team: New York Giants
Pro athlete most admired: Larry Bird
Most influential person in athletic career: Larry Bird
Statistics: Smartt averaged 19.3 points to help Southern Fulton go 2-1 last week ... The Indians' guard nailed eight 3-pointers while shooting 14-for-17 (82%) from the free throw line He is averaging 17.5 points per game for the season.