Print and Go Back ESPN.com: USC [Print without images]

Sunday, February 14, 2010
Smith comes up big

By Pedro Moura

For USC reserve guard Donte Smith, this season's been a struggle.

He averaged 32 minutes and eight points per game as the Trojans' starting point guard in the first eight games of the year, but scored a total of 14 points over the next 10 games when Mike Gerrity became eligible.

He went games without scoring, games without playing more than two meaningful minutes a half.

And he grew tired of it, apparently. He approached coach Kevin O'Neill about his lack of minutes in practice last week.

Player and coach say the result of the meeting was a realization that Smith needed to work harder during the week in order to earn more playing time during the weekend.

And, well, "it showed in the game," Smith said.

O'Neill said his play in practice was impressive. Smith said he worked harder all week long. And the 5-foot-11, 180-pound combo guard had 12 points and two assists in 19 minutes Sunday against UCLA.

"Donte came off the bench and gave us a huge, huge spark," said Gerrity, who had just six points against the Bruins. "We rode that for a little bit."

“That’s my role. Just bring high energy off the bench, play lockdown defense, make big plays for us — that’s what I do,” Smith said.

And USC can use him. O'Neill has lamented for much of the season the Trojans' lack of a true backup point guard.

Now, Smith may not be that guy.

But he may be even better.