February 7, 2012 8:53:00 AM
Matthew Stevens - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- It was almost as if Shaun Smith had to walk up to his coach, shake his head, and re-introduce himself.
After having major hip surgery and rehabilitating from that injury this fall, Mississippi State University sophomore guard Shaun Smith admitted Monday he felt like a forgotten man on the MSU men's basketball team.
"When we're practicing and stuff, (I'm) going hard in practice, trying to show (the coaches) that I'm still here and want to play," Smith said.
The hard work is paying off for the 6-foot-6 guard from Noxubee County. Smith had five key points Saturday in a 91-88 win against Auburn University at Humphrey Coliseum. He had played in only three games before that game, and none for more than 12 minutes.
With a little more than two months left in the 2011-12 season, MSU coach Rick Stansbury would like to get some quality minutes from Smith off the bench.
"There's no reason he can't (give five to eight minutes a game) against everybody," Stansbury said Monday. "If he hadn't been hurt, I think we'd be way beyond that point, but just because of his situation that's where we're at right now."
Smith has been dealing with hip injuries since he arrived at MSU after he was a two-time All-Area selection by The Dispatch. He knows the physical problems have defined his basketball career, but he wants to change that perception and work his way into better basketball shape to help No. 20 MSU (18-5, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) in the stretch run.
"(The injuries are) something I can get over eventually," Smith said. "I'm used to it now. (Stansbury) just came to me and told me I had to step up and whenever I get in the game, just make something happen."
Smith hit his first 3-pointer of the season Saturday to give MSU a 22-21 lead with 9 minutes, 23 seconds left in the first half.
The five points were the most the Columbus native scored since he had six points and six rebounds against North Carolina A&T on Dec. 12, 2010.
"It's just a mind thing," Smith said. "I just knew I was going to make the
shot and the free throws (Saturday) before I even did it."
For a team that has struggled with depth issues and is down to a seven-man rotation, Smith's emergence will help give freshman Rodney Hood valuable rest.
"This time a year everything changes a little, especially once you hit February," Stansbury said. "His lack of playing up to this point affects that some. But he's got to find a way to put in the extra time, put in the extra conditioning, do those things that will help him in that role he's in. For the most part he's trying to do that."
Smith rejoins MSU program Monday
Backup point guard DeVille Smith has returned to classes at MSU after being hospitalized for unknown medical issues.
Stansbury said Smith would be active for practice Monday, but he wasn't sure when the 5-foot-10 freshman from Jackson would see game action.
"We'll just have to see where he's at," Stansbury said. "From there we will just evaluate where he is at."
Smith, who is averaging 5.4 points and 2.4 assists per game this season, has experienced two bouts of headaches and dizziness that required trips to the hospital. He likely will be out for No. 20 MSU's game at 6:30 p.m. Thursday (ESPN2) against the University of Mississippi at Humphrey Coliseum. Stansbury confirmed the news Monday morning in his Southeastern Conference media teleconference.
"I'm not even concerned about the basketball part of it," Stansbury said. "I have no idea when that'll happen. We'll just have to wait and see."
Smith hasn't seen played since he logged seven minutes Jan. 18 in a 75-68 loss to the University of Mississippi at Tad Smith Coliseum.
"It's real encouraging," MSU junior forward Arnett Moultrie said Monday of DeVille Smith's return. "He's been through a lot and has had so much adversity. It's good to see how well he's handling it."
Moultrie one of 20 finalists for Oscar Robertson Trophy
Moultrie was named one of 20 finalists named Monday to the 2012 Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List.
The Memphis native leads the SEC with 13 double-doubles and in rebounding (11.1 per game). He also is a finalist for the Wooden Award.
"It's a real honor," said Moultrie, who leads MSU at 17.0 points per game. "But it's not about me. It's about the team."
Members of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association board of directors chose 20 players as contenders for the Oscar Robertson Trophy. The trophy will be awarded March 30 in New Orleans at the USBWA's College Basketball Awards Breakfast.