Hype machine still building steam for Dennis Smith

Mark Gottfried calls freshman the best guard in the country prior to start of 2016-17 season.

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Dennis Smith

RALEIGH — To this point in his college career, Dennis Smith has watched from the sidelines. After tearing his ACL prior to his senior year in high school, Smith enrolled early to get integrated with the NC State basketball program. That will all change soon.In just over one month — Nov. 3 to be exact — Wolfpack fans will finally get a chance to see Smith in action. Mark Gottfried has seen Smith recover firsthand wasn’t afraid to offer a brash description of his freshman point guard, who he believe is the “best guard in the country.””I will stand here in front of you today and say I think Dennis Smith is the best guard in the country,” Gottfried said. “Period. Hands down. That’s my opinion. He is still a freshman, and he still has to learn. There’s a learning curve even for those players that are very talented.”But I have a strong opinion on how good I think he is. I wouldn’t choose anybody over him.”Gottfried hasn’t had a shortage of great point guards as a college coach. From Mo Williams to Cat Barber, the sixth-year NC State coach has rarely shown this much faith in a freshman leading his team.But with strong leadership skills — which Smith says date back to the first grade at Teresa C. Berrien Elementary In Fayetteville — Smith already has the trust of the rest of the roster. Terry Henderson, who went through a similar journey as Smith after missing last season with an ankle injury, praised Smith for his maturity despite adversity.”When I was 18, I wasn’t thinking like he’s thinking,” Henderson said. “I’m excited for his future. He’s the No. 1 player in the country coming out of high school — the best guard in the country. I don’t think that’s up for any debate in my eyes.”The Fayetteville native was the No. 1 player in N.C. and the No. 2 point guard and No. 6 player in the 2016 class nationally, according to 247Sports. He turned down offers from UNC, Duke, Kansas and Kentucky when he committed to NC State — his first offer as a sophomore at Trinity Christian School.While he’s played pickup games and claims he was dunking one month after his surgery — shhhh, don’t tell Gottfried — Smith is ready for game action.”I’m so hungry to play, man,” Smith said before the summer. “I haven’t played a game since Aug. 2, 2015, so it’s been a very long time since I’ve been able to prove myself. I remember the date. I’m hungry to go out there and compete and prove that it’s not all hype.”One thing I can promise is that I’ll play every game like it’s my last because I realize now it can be taken away from you at any moment.”As for the hype his own coach built for him at NC State Media Day, Smith completely agrees.”I’m all the way with him on that,” Smith said of Gottfried’s comments. “I believe the same thing. I’m glad he does, because he’s my coach. I wouldn’t expect anything less. I totally agree with him.”