Position: PG
Height/Weight: 6'2" / 195 lbs
School/Club: North Carolina State
Status: Freshman
Birthday: November 25, 1997

About Dennis Smith

After tearing his ACL before his senior season of high school basketball, Smith graduated early and arrived at NC State in January 2016 to rehabilitate. Expectations for his debut season were sky high, given his high school success and lofty recruiting rankings. And in many ways, Smith didn’t disappoint, racking up 30-point games, triple doubles, and enough assists to lead the Atlantic Coast Conference. But Smith wasn’t always dominant, and there were games in which he struggled, especially after NC State announced in midseason that coach Mark Gottfried wouldn’t be retained. While Gottfried’s ouster and State’s 15-17 season can’t be pinned on Smith, there were games where he seemed over the college experience and ready to move on. Now he’s going to get that chance. Surrounded by better coaching, better shooters to take advantage of his passes and with all the time he wants to work on his game, Smith has every opportunity to flourish. He certainly has the physical tools.

  • Strong frame
  • Tough to contain in transition
  • Can slash to the rim
  • Quick first step
  • Can control speeds to create separation
  • Good ball handler
  • Good passer
  • Rebounds his position


  • Needs to sharpen decision-making
  • Jump shot could be more consistent
  • Has to learn to sustain defensive effort
  • Needs to cash in at free-throw line more often

NBA projection: Smith is a certain lottery pick.

2016-17 Season
Smith finished sixth in the ACC in scoring, first in assists and second in steals and became the first NC State player since Hawkeye Whitney in 1977 to be chosen ACC Freshman of the Year. At times he controlled games almost single-handedly. He’s the only player in ACC history to rack up two triple-doubles in conference games in one season, with a 27-point, 11-assist, 11-rebound effort against Virginia Tech and 13 points, 15 assists and 11 boards against Syracuse. Four times, he scored more than 30 points, the most for a freshman in ACC history.

Key statistics: 18.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 6.2 apg, 3.3 tpg, 1.9 spg, 34.8 mpg, .455 FG, .359 3PT, .715 FT

Career Highlights: The first Pack player since Hawkeye Whitney in 1977 to be named ACC Freshman of the Year and the only to be the sole winner (Whitney shared the honors). Set an N.C. State freshman scoring average record (18.2). The first freshman since UNC's Ed Cota in the 1996-97 season to lead ACC freshmen in points and assists. The only player in ACC history to register two triple-doubles in the same season.

Cool statistic: Smith was the first freshman since North Carolina’s Ed Cota (1996-97) to lead ACC freshmen in scoring and assists.

Reminds me of: Baron Davis

What Insiders Say
Former NC State coach Mark Gottfried

“I'm really proud of him. I think he's handled a tough situation as well as you can handle it. Tons of expectations put on Dennis to be the savior of the program. He's got great things that are going to happen for him in his life. He's going to learn this year. It's going to be a great learning opportunity for him. He's just going to stay positive. He'll get better and better and better, and life will move on for him.”

What Outsiders Say
Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser

"He was like Westbrook the way he was that quick and that athletic. You collapse your defense, and he kicks it. You don’t collapse your defense, and he scores it. Then he’s getting rebounds. Thirty [points], six [rebounds] and seven [assists]. And three steals. I mean, he’s all that and more than advertised."



Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. You can email him here, follow him on Twitter and listen to the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Hour.

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