Just like starting over

Sophomore Jason Smith is looking to rebound and establish himself in the GW men’s basketball lineup after an early end to his rookie season at GW.

He started his comeback Tuesday night with a 2-for-3 shooting performance for four points and four rebounds (three offensive) in 13 minutes of play.

The lanky 6-8 forward missed the majority of last season after a misdiagnosed abdominal hernia required surgery. Many who had high expectations of the quick, flashy Smith were forced to ponder what might have been and are now turning their eyes upon the sophomore as he begins another season.

After the first two games of last season, Smith began to complain of what he believed to be a pulled groin muscle. Team trainers dealt with the injury routinely while Smith continued to appear in the next few games, despite intense pain.

It was killing me, but I kept playing, Smith said of the injury.

Finally, before GW was scheduled to play at Duquesne, Smith made the decision to sit out. When he returned home, team doctors re-diagnosed the injury as an abdominal hernia.

I cried like a baby when I found out, he said.

Smith’s season ended after only eight games, during which he played a total of 49 minutes, grabbed eight rebounds and scored eight points.

For three months after the surgery to remove the hernia, Smith was confined to crutches, leaving him little ability to keep up his playing shape. Smith spent plenty of time with the team, attending most practices and going on road trips.

In June, Smith was able to return to the court and practice with the team. Fortunately for Smith and for the Colonials, Smith said he received a medical redshirt for his shortened season, meaning he still has four years of eligibility remaining.

Smith came from the Winchendon School in Boston just as a head coaching change was taking place at GW. The run-and-gun playing style that Tom Penders was bringing to the team attracted Smith, especially in comparison to previous coach Mike Jarvis’ half-court system. Penders appeared to be a coach that Smith could flourish under.

For me, there’s no one better than Penders, Smith said. He’ll let you do anything, as long as it’s within your game.

Since coming to GW, Smith has also been indebted to Penders’ off-court presence.

He’s great, Smith said. Like a father away from home.

Penders is equally eager to heap praise upon the forward.

He’s the kind of kid that you search for over the years, Penders said. He has speed, a great work ethic, an enthusiasm for the game, and he’s fun.

Penders said he has big plans for the sophomore this year. He expects to give him a lot of playing time at small forward, hoping Smith will focus on bringing down a lot of rebounds.

I’d like him to be our Dennis Rodman, Penders said.

Smith still hobbles a bit in practice, but he said that at this point, his injury is all mental. He bulked up over the last year and has regained his endurance. During his lengthy absence from play, Smith spent a lot of time with Assistant Coach Tommy Penders Jr. working on his role in the Colonials’ new system.

As for his play, Smith has a great deal of optimism. Colonial fans can look forward to watching this physically and mentally improved player they only caught a glimpse of last season. His own words relay his optimism best:

Jason Smith is officially ready to go.

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