The last time Dwight Smith started a game, I was a freshman at CSU.
Tim Miles was the coach then, and Dwight’s teammate and brother, Greg, wore a nose-protecting mask that earned him the nickname “Batman.”
Now, Miles is the Big-10 Coach of the Year, Greg is playing in Brazil and Lebron James is the one drawing mask comparisons to the Dark Knight. Smith has battled injuries and struggled through a coaching change while waiting for his moment to shine.
That moment came Wednesday in the first round of the Mountain West Conference tournament.
With Gerson Santo sidelined due to a hand injury, a starting spot opened up for the redshirt junior guard who was only averaging 12 minutes per game this season.
Smith relished the opportunity to step into that slot.
He finished with a game-high 21 points in the game Wednesday against Utah State after shooting 10-14 from the field and grabbing eight rebounds. That wasn’t enough though, as USU made a late push to take the lead with 40 seconds left, and never looked back. The Aggies won 73-69, ending CSU’s season.
Smith is usually thrown in the game as a defensive specialist to slow down a hot shooter, but his high-energy play consistently gets him in foul trouble. It was a different story Wednesday as he thrived on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Head coach Larry Eustachy was pleased with the way both Dwight and back-up big man Marcus Holt played in their fill-in roles.
“They’ve had opportunities, but they’ve struggled when given opportunities,” Eustachy said. “They really stepped up (Wednesday).”
Smith was visibly disappointed after the game, saying he doesn’t care about the individual performance.
“I just wanted to win the game,” he said. “It doesn’t even matter at this point.”
Smith’s tone summed up the disappointment of the heart-breaking loss. He has one year of eligibility left, and is returning to a Rams’ team that is expected to bring back four starters from its now-finished season.
Rams guard Jonathan Octeus can only look forward to next year after this loss.
“Dwight just showed everybody that was watching what he’s gonna bring to the table next year,” Octeus said. “It was nice to see him out there having fun, playing how we know he can play.”
With a strong returning cast and impressive batch of transfers, Smith shouldn’t expect to get too many starting minutes next season. But if Wednesday was a sign of of a better, healthier player, then maybe Dwight could prove to be the superhero the Rams need to carry them deep into the conference tournament next year, and back to post-season play.
Maybe Greg can even loan him a mask.
CTV Sports Reporter Keith Albertson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @CTVKeith.