Ryan Flynn – Sports Editor –
It’s arguably the most important position on the basketball court. The point guard, is, as the cliché goes, the “quarterback of the offense.” For Southern, there’s plenty of youth at this pivotal position. Youth, and bright futures.
Nicole Grossbard, from Pearl River, New York, has had to step in and contribute immediately in just her freshman year. The 5’4 guard has been up to the challenge so far, averaging five points, four assists and just under two steals per game. She is narrowly second on the team in field goal percentage.
In her first game ever with the Owls, the freshman assisted a game-winning three pointer to senior Camille Fantini. Southern’s women’s team is off to a 3-5 start with Grossbard at the helm, with all three wins coming at home.
Head coach Meghan Brown spoke about the mentality that she looks for in a point guard.
“I’m looking for my point guard to set tempo, control a team, control the flow of the game, take control of her teammates on the floor and direct in a positive manner. And also to be a leader out there and a strong extension of me on the court.
Tylon Smith played for Kingswood-Oxford in West Hartford, where he averaged 32 points as a senior as his team’s number one option. The 6’2 guard came into last year in an unfamiliar position. With scorers and playmakers like Greg Langston, Dominique Langston and Trevon Hamlet on the floor, Smith found himself as the third or fourth option, often coming off the bench as a sixth man.
“Last year it was rough because I was depended on so much in my high school days that I had to score for us to be successful. But, now I’m coming here and I’m playing with so many talented guys such as Greg, such as Trev, such as Luke [Houston].”
This year, Hamlet and Greg Langston are still here, but Smith is a year older and a year wiser.
“Even though I’m a sophomore I just feel like, since I had a good year last year and a I’ve had a year with the program that guys are starting to trust me a lot more because of what I’ve done last year. I see myself become a lot more outspoken and vocal on the court,” Smith said. “It’s just still a work in progress.”
Smith and redshirt senior Rashamell Vereen are the two point guards on the Owls roster. Head coach Michael Donnelly spoke about his two floor generals.
“They’re kind of quiet kids off the court and we’ve been on both of those guys about how important it is to have a presence out on the floor. They’re the unofficial leaders of the floor because the ball is in their hands the majority of the time and everything initiates through them on both sides of the ball, defensively and offensively.”
Donnelly praised Smith’s work in the classroom as well, where he said the guard has a 3.6 grade point average.
“He’s extremely committed to academics and certainly committed to the game of basketball,” Donnelly said.
Smith, who has played the position since the eighth grade, says that he idolizes a pair of guards from Los Angeles. One being Chris Paul, point guard for the Clippers. The other: Kobe Bryant. Bryant is the furthest thing imaginable from a pass-first guard, but Smith said he appreciates Bryant’s desire to win and leadership on the floor.
In his sophomore campaign, Smith averages eight points and leads his team with just over four assists per game. He has helped lead the Owls to a 5-3 record. Smith, who had primarily been used as a key scorer off the bench, first saw minutes as a full-time starter at the end of last year, when he helped the team to victories in four of their last five games.
For both players, the position is one of the most mentally tasking in sports. For a point guard to be successful, he or she must strike a balance between scoring and distributing. Deferring while staying aggressive. Smith looks to straddle that line.
“In many of my talks with coach Donnelly he’s told me that he knows I’m a scorer first and he wants me to keep that mentality and he trusts that I’ll make the right decision when the time comes,” Smith said. “If someone’s hot, it’s my job as a point guard to get them the ball and get them their looks. And also stay in attack mode and not defer and lose that edge. It was rough at first but I feel like I’m a lot more comfortable with it. I know when I need to score or when my team needs a play I know that I’ve got to be the one to make it.”