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April 5, 2013

Russ grateful for third-team honor




[db]Russ Smith's[/db] snub in postseason honors -- for the most part anyway -- seems to bother everyone else more than it does him.

Louisville basketball coach [db]Rick Pitino]/db] says it's a travesty that his junior guard and leading scorer hasn't attracted more mention on All-America teams. That changed slightly Friday when Smith was named a third team All-American by the Associated Press.

To be named one of the top 15 players in the nation is a tremendous achievement, of course, but Smith is the best player on, arguably, the best team in the country and has played like gangbusters on the biggest stage -- the NCAA Tournament.

In four tournament games, Smith has scored 104 points (26.0 ppg) and was named the Midwest Regional's Most Outstanding Player. He needs only nine points in Saturday's Final Four semifinal against Wichita State to break Darrell Griffith's school record for points in the NCAAs. Then at the other end of the court there is his menacing defensive presence.

Before the announcement of the AP team, Pitino said he was puzzled at the lack of attention for Smith, and he obviously feels like third team doesn't do the 6-foot-1 dynamo justice.

"Truly, I'm baffled, just baffled, because it isn't like he's a Johnny-come-lately," Pitino says. "He carried us on his back to a Final Four last year. Russ does what Allen Iverson does with the ball -- he creates. He's able to get to the foul line, get a shot off, make a play, turn around and guard. I'd have him in the top twelve in the (NBA) draft because of the way his game translates to the next level.

"I'm very happy that everybody's missing the boat because I'll have him for another year. But I really, I really can't believe what I'm reading sometimes of this kid, because he's, to me, I thought he was a runaway Player of the Year. Runaway. And that's no knock on the other guys, because they're great too."

Backcourt running mate Peyton Siva's reaction: "Third team? I think he's the best player in the country."

For his part, though, Smith says he doesn't put any stock into All-American teams or someone else's opinion and that he doesn't feel disrespected by being named to the third team instead of higher.

"It doesn't matter if nobody thinks too much of me as a player. What I do for my teammates and coaches, you can't put into words, and that's all I care about," Smith says. "I don't care what anybody thinks about me, I really don't. I don't have the slightest worry about what anyone has to say about my game. The only thing I care about is what Coach P puts on that clipboard and what my teammates say I can do to make us better. And that's point blank.

"I've always been overlooked all my life. To be named an All-American is an honor to me. No matter where I get put -- first, second, third team -- I just feel like at least I was recognized. Wherever the outside world thinks I belong, that's their opinion. It's an honor because I know where I started from and I was not on the road to be named All-American."




BEHANAN DUNK CHAMPION

UofL sophomore power forward [db]Chane Behanan]/db] was named the winner of the Pepsi MAX Dunk of the Year award, it was announced Thursday night during the broadcast of the College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships.

Against DePaul on Feb. 27, Behanan stole a pass late in the first half and slammed through a one-handed dunk over Blue Demons guard Worrel Clahar. Replays showed that the 6-foot-6 Behanan's knee reached Clahar's chin during the spectacular play. Clahar was whistled for a blocking foul after the basket.

"I felt teeth on my knee," Behanan said after the game.

Behanan beat out Detroit's Doug Anderson, High Point's John Brown, and Baylor's Cory Jefferson in the contest that was determined in a week-long finals round.

Behanan has 57 dunks this season, just two shy of Pervis Ellison's 1987-88 school record. The Cincinnati native is averaging 9.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.


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