UCF Basketball won’t have big man Collin Smith for the upcoming season. How will the Knights move forward and remain competitive?
Despite losing the team’s three best players from their NCAA Tournament team the prior year, UCF Basketball had a solid overall 2019-20 campaign. They finished over .500 for the season and 7-11 in the American. A big part of the success they did have came from Collin Smith, who went from role player to leading star.
After playing behind Tacko Fall in more ways than one, Smith took the role of key frontcourt player. His career-high performance of 22 points and 12 rebounds against Penn showed his capability to lead the Knights and finished last season with five double-doubles total while leading the team with 12.6 ppg.
He, along with double-digit scoring guard Darin Green Jr. coming back for the upcoming season gave UCF Basketball optimism to getting back to the NCAA Tournament, until a recent decision by Smith changed things.
Smith becomes the second college basketball player to decide to opt-out of the upcoming campaign, joining Patrick Good of East Tennessee State. As the days get closer towards the start of the season (Nov. 25), expect maybe a handful more to step away. With a blanket one-year extension for all players in terms of eligibility, this won’t hurt Smith if he does decide to come back to UCF.
Far as the on the court situation, this is a problem for the Knights at the moment. But it might not be a fatal blow if certain things work out in their favor. Last season, the frontcourt had little depth outside out Smith, with Avery Diggs getting the bulk of the backup minutes. He’ll be around again, along with JUCO center newcomer Moses Bol and Ibrahim Famouke Doumbia.
Joining them is VCU transfer forward Sean Mobley, who averaged 4.3 ppg and 2.8 rpg in 63 games before sitting out last season. There’s also hope that CJ Walker, a former Oregon Duck, and five-star recruit can get a waiver to play this season as well after transferring this offseason. The odds are decent as long as Oregon supports the waiver, which likely they will, considering that they need cooperation from other programs for their own incoming transfers.
If Walker can play this season, the Knights will have a good amount of depth in the frontcourt, even without Smith. Green now becomes the likely candidate to lead the team in scoring from the perimeter, with Louisville grad transfer Darius Perry likely starting at point. If freshman guard Isaiah Adams can provide some needed offense to help replace the lost production of Smith, UCF can still field a competitive roster for 2020-21.
We all wish Collin Smith a safe time as he focuses on his health and prepares for what will be a promising basketball future wherever he ends up next. It’s still a tough blow for UCF Basketball with less than 40 days before the season starts and they’re hoping to have Walker be part of the playing roster. If that happens, the Knights should be able to finish in the top half of the AAC and be a credible threat towards foes such as Houston and Memphis.