Derrick Smits is far from being an NBA All-Star caliber player. Today.
But in the race to greatness, the Zionsville High School sophomore has a jump start on others that have walked that path, most notably his father, former Indiana Pacer center – and NBA All-Star – Rik Smits.
“I think that he can be better than me,” the elder Smits said. “He's way further ahead of where I was at his age.”
Where the 16-year-old is at this stage of his development is somewhere between pretty good and going to be great.
“The progress that he's made from last year to now” Ancilla College coach Aaron Butcher said, “to think that he's only 16, to think where he could be in 2 ½ years from now as a freshman in college, somebody is going to get an impact player.”
Butcher not only has watched Smits' development, but also helped in that regard having coached him in a fall league in Indianapolis last year, as well as currently with Smits' Spiece Indy Heat squad.
Smits is seemingly improving by the day. A year ago, Butcher said that Smits would struggle earning minutes on the floor, but at the recent Bill Hensley Memorial Run-n-Slam All-Star Classic at Spiece Fieldhouse, the Spiece coaches struggled to take him off of the floor.
“He's really skilled,” Butcher said. “The stuff that he can do at 6-foot-10, catching at the elbow and attacking, spin moves and finishing, and he's got a good shot.”
This past season, Smits averaged just over seven points per game and almost three rebounds per game. As a youngster growing into the sport and his body, his performances were inconsistent.
Against Westfield, Smits scored just two points and grabbed a lone rebound. One day later he dropped a 21-point, eight-rebound performance on Western Boone.
“Sometimes you look at post players and you get frustrated because you see how big they are,” Butcher said. “Everybody says 'If I were that size…' But post players usually develop later.”
The days of the true back-to-the basket center have gone the way of dial-up Internet. However, Rik Smits is trying to teach his son to have a touch of “old school” to his game, and not just desire to be a lengthy face-up forward.
“I tell him to post up because I know that he can,” Rik said. “He's at a point, where he should be able to use his height to his advantage. He doesn't always do that. You don't have to post up every time, but show that you can take advantage of your height.”
Butcher said that Smits is making strides in that aspect of play, and once he is on the block with position, that is where he is truly a nightmare match-up for defenses.
“A quality that not a lot of people realize is that he is a great passer,” Butcher said. “His back-to-the-basket game keeps getting better and better. Now when he's facing up and playing with his back to the basket, as good of a passer as he is, you've got to play him one on one.”
At this point, no colleges have offered Smits a scholarship. However, Butcher said those will be coming eventually – in droves.
“I think that he is definitely a high-major kid,” Butcher said. “He's probably going to be 7-foot or 7-foot-2 (Rik is 7-foot-4) and we talk about skill level, there are kids every year that size that go somewhere just because of their size. But he's skilled too.”