Concordia (Cal.) University’s Peter Smith inherited everything from his father but his height.
Smith, a 5-foot-11 point guard, brings the same attributes to the court as his late father, Phil Smith, a 6-5 shooting guard who was a two-time NBA All-Star and helped the Golden State Warriors win the 1975 NBA title.
Like his dad, Smith is an accurate shooter, pinpoint passer and dependable ball handler, and all of those skills were on display when Concordia began its defense of the NAIA Division I Tournament championship with a 92-86 victory over 12th-seeded William Carey (Miss.) on Thursday at Municipal Auditorium.
“He runs the team,” Concordia coach Ken Ammann said of Smith, who scored 14 points with seven assists and a steal while playing a team-most 37 minutes. “He’s the floor leader, he plays good defense, he shoots, he drives, he’s our guy out there. “
Smith began his college career at his father’s alma mater, the University of San Francisco, where he spent two seasons at the NCAA Division I level and started 13 games for the Dons. He transferred to Concordia and started at point guard for the Eagles, who as a second seed, reached the quarterfinals of the 2011 NAIA Tournament.
But Smith redshirted last year to begin work on his master’s degree when Concordia won the tournament.
“What can you do?” said Smith, who will get his master’s in business administration next December. “We were more favored to win it my first year here, and the team got hot last year and got it done.”
Smith’s father, who played in the NBA for nine years, died of cancer at age 50 in 2002 when Peter was 11.
“He used to work me out all the time,” Peter said. “But I learned a lot more from my brothers. He was working with them when they were in high school, and I was waiting for my turn to work with him in high school, but he passed away before I got to high school.”
Smith helped the Eagles jump out to a 13-0 lead on Thursday, and the Eagles led by as many as 17 in the first half before William Carey, 25-6, led by guard Jeremiah Dunnings’ 35 points, stormed back and drew within three points in the second half. But the Eagles came up with critical baskets and free throws down the stretch, including four free throws by Smith in the final two minutes.
“It’s tough closing out teams because at the end of these games, it’s everybody’s last game,” said Smith, who averages 13.8 points and a team-leading 4.0 assists per game. “They’re fouling, they’re scrambling, they’re playing to their fullest ability, so it’s tough to close out every game.”