Wednesday, July 19, 2006

J.R. Smith to Nuggets

The Nuggets are expected to acquire St. Benedict's product J.R. Smith after he was traded by the Hornets to the Bulls for guard Howard Eisley and two second-round picks in 2007. The article in the Rocky Mountain News also points out that Smith's dad, Earl, has donated $50,000 to St. Benedict's. That must be good news for the school and the basketball teams, which next year will include three Passaic County players: Tamir Jackson, Jayon James and Rashad Bishop.

Smith, 20, was drafted No. 18 by the Hornets in 2004 out of St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, N.J. He averaged 10.3 points while mostly starting as a rookie, but dropped to 7.7 last season, when he lost his starting job around midseason and clashed with coach Byron Scott.

Smith said it was "miscommunication." He said the two haven't spoken in a while.

Smith shot 37.1 percent on three-pointers last season. His high school coach, Dan Hurley, said Smith has a "Dell Curry stroke" and is a "phenomenal perimeter shooter" who was trying too hard to show he could put the ball on the floor.

"He's been lifting and getting stronger and really working on his skills," said John Lucas, a former Nuggets assistant who has been working Smith out this summer in Houston. "He's got the ability to be as good as anybody in this league."

Smith also has drawn raves for conduct off the court. His father, Earl Smith, said he has given $50,000 to St. Benedict's.

"I told him once, 'If you ever make it, I'll be knocking on your door (for a donation),' " said St. Benedict's headmaster, Father Edwin Leahy, who saw Smith when he visited the school Monday to work with youngsters. "He's a terrific guy, It's the middle of July and he stops by."

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