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Column: PS3 goes off in DeLand

Photo Credit: Eric Hudiburg
Parker Smith (3) saw his share of double teams and physical defense, but was still able to hit 9 three’s.

Coming into the season, I was excited to watch one of the best three-point shooters in the country, UNF senior guard Parker Smith. The Bleacher Report, a sports website, rated him as one of the best 15 shooters in college basketball, and they were right. As of Jan. 7, Smith was ranked 15th in the nation in shooting percentage (46.7 percent) but ranked second in the same category of anyone who has more than 100 attempts. Smith was also tied for third for most three-point field goals per game, with 3.94.

I’ve had a chance to watch Smith play in a few home games, but the true mark of a great player, and a great team, is their ability to play well away from the comforts of home.

The perfect opportunity to watch a road game came when UNF traveled to Deland to play the Stetson Hatters Jan. 5. (Side note: No team should be named after an article of clothing. I’m really glad we’re not the North Florida Sweatpants.)

Deland is a quaint little town with some pleasing aesthetic qualities, including the university, which was established in 1887. The fans of the Hatters, most of whom look like they attended classes during Stetson’s inaugural year, are passionate about their basketball.

The Edmunds Center is a compact venue but has a unique feel. The seating where fans look-on, elevates at a steep angle and is kept dark. The court, however, is brightly lit. The contrast gives the place the feel of a boxing match.

The main card for the Stetson – UNF match didn’t have any fights, but it did feature a super-ultra featherweight in Parker Smith. PS3, as the kids call him, is built more like a Kenyan long distance runner than a boxer. He stands 6-foot-3 inches tall and weighs in at 155 pounds.

After a disappointing showing at home against Northern Kentucky, Smith was in need of a rebuttal. He was 2-10 from distance against NKU, resulting in a loss against a team that UNF should have beaten.

Before the game, head coach Matthew Driscoll asked Smith if he wanted to run a play for him to start the game, but Smith declined. I guess he knew he would have his fair share of chances.

Smith came out with a vengeance. He attempted eight three-pointers in the first half, and made seven. The only shot he missed was a shot attempt blocked by a Stetson player. By the middle of the first half, Smith was so hot Stetson fans were yelling, “No!” the second he was catching the ball in anticipation of the three points that were sure to follow. Smith used his slender frame to slip screens and get open looks, to the tune of 23 first half points.

The Hatters had no answer for Smith in the second half either. He dropped two more trey’s and finished the game with 33 points on 9-10 shooting from 3-point range.

There was nothing the Stetson players could do to stop him — short of sabotage. Smith was having the type of game that most players only dream about, but the crazy thing is that it was only his second best shooting performance of his career. Smith drained 11 three-pointers and scored 46 points last season against Mercer for a career high.

When the game concluded with a 90-74 UNF victory, the entire Stetson women’s basketball team — who witnessed the Smith Show — rushed over to the scorers table to get a look at the stat sheet. They shook their heads and marveled at the statistical evidence of a truly great shooter.

While many onlookers were shocked at what they had just seen, Driscoll wasn’t surprised. He said that after his cold shooting against NKU, Smith was back in the gym working on his jumper at 7:45 a.m. the next morning. My guess is that after his performance against Stetson, Smith might have hit the snooze button a few times the next morning.

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