Smart Making Immediate Impact
Sophomore Transfer Invites Leadership Role
One of the earliest players to arrive at the court each morning for Mean Green men’s basketball practice is also one of the first players that new head coach Grant McCasland brought in to help start the new era of North Texas basketball.
Roosevelt Smart gets his shots in before practice begins. He knows there will be an adjustment coming from New Mexico Junior college and he knows he needs to get stronger and be ready when the season begins next week.
“It was tough at first,” Smart said. “I was out of shape. Wasn’t strong enough. But as time went on I got stronger. I know what the coaches want from us to be special.”
Known as “Rose” by coaches and teammates, Smart hails from Chicago, where he honed his craft on the concrete park courts before spending a year at New Mexico JC. He led the Thunderbirds to a 19-11 record last year, leading the team in scoring with 18.8 points per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field.
As far as street ball versus college basketball, he just plays it all the same despite its differences.
“I go out there and play the game I love,” Smart said. “It is different from street ball obviously. You can play behind the whistle a bit there, but as far as my game, I play the same.”
Smart led the Thunderbirds from the charity stripe with an 82.6 percent free-throw percentage off 119-for-144. As a team in 2016-17, North Texas shot just .646 from the free throw line, which ranked 13th out of 14 teams in Conference USA.
His motor led Smart to double figures in all 28 games, and his tenacity landed him a spot in McCasland’s first-year squad in Denton.
“The first time I really looked at him, his competitiveness and aggressiveness jumped out at me,” McCasland said. “He also has one of those smiles where he doesn’t get down. If you combine that competitiveness and the ability to be a good teammate, those are the things we value for us. How hard you play, and your motor has to run. Rose has a high energy to him in the way he plays basketball.”
In a North Texas squad that features just five upperclassmen, leadership could emerge from younger players and Smart has embraced his role as a leader on his new team.
“He doesn’t get discouraged,” McCasland said. “He loves to play the game. Even if things don’t go his way, he has a good demeanor and I think his teammates love to play with him for that reason.”
While always a threat to score the ball, Smart has great vision on the court as well. He is not afraid to help in any way he can get involved. Even while off the court, Smart wants to have an impact.
“Whether it’s scoring, playing defense, hustling or on the bench clapping for my teammates, whatever I can do to help my teammates I’m doing it,” Smart said. “I feel if I’m not speaking up someone else will. We’re always encouraging our teammates and making sure everyone is on the same page.”
North Texas will begin the season with a game against Eureka College next Friday at the Super Pit at 5 p.m. Season tickets begin at $75 and can be purchased at MeanGreenSports.com/tickets.