FIU GUARD MALIK SMITH
The FIU basketball team is coming off a big win at Arkansas State, the co-leader of the Sun Belt Conference’s West Division, on Thursday night. The Panthers have now won four straight games as they meet UALR, the other first place team in the West Division, on Saturday night in Little Rock.
With a current record of 8-7, the Panthers and first-year coach Richard Pitino have already matched the victory total from last year when FIU had a different coach. One reason for the Panthers' success thus far has been junior guard Malik Smith. The Boston native leads the Sun Belt in three-pointers made. Smith has shown to have a deft shooting touch. So much so that Smith had not lost a game of H-O-R-S-E until just last year in junior college in Texas.
Living in Boston for 19 years until moving to Texas, Smith, uncharacteristically, does not sound like a Bostonian when you ask him if he has parked his car in the Harvard yard. Nor does Smith root for Boston’s NBA team. One thing Smith is a fan of is the Miami weather, FIU, and aspirations of being a basketball coach. Let’s hit the hardwood and go Out of the Cage with Malik Smith . . . .
PP: I noticed you don’t have a Boston accent, even though you have lived in Boston all your life until you went to college. Say for me that “you parked your car in the Harvard yard.”
MS: [Laughing] Nah, I don’t have any Boston accent. I parked my car in the Harvard yard. I’ve never really had one I don’t know why because I have lived in Boston until I went to college two years ago. I lived in Boston for 19 years. And no one in my family has an accent either. I don’t know why.
PP: What part of Boston did you live in?
MS: Roxbury, which is in the city of Boston (below), but none of us really talk with a Boston accent. I guess the accent is more a suburban Boston accent.
PP: Hold on, you just pronounced Boston as Bossss-ton.
MS: [Laughing] The caaarrr is in the yaaarrrd. Boss-ton.
PP: I’m guessing you are a fan of the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics.
MS: This is going to shock you, but I’m a Lakers fan. I’ve lived 19 years in Boston and I’ve always been a Lakers fan. I don’t know how I’ve gotten away with that living in Boston. I love the Patriots. But I’m really just a Lakers fan because of Kobe Bryant. I’m not really too fond of the Lakers. Like if Kobe wasn’t on the Lakers, then I probably wouldn’t be a fan.
PP: When you were first contacted by coach Pitino to play did you at first think it was Rick Pitino because Richard hadn’t been a head coach before FIU?
MS: Nah, I knew it was Richard because when he called me I saw on ESPN that he just got the job here at FIU. When he called me I was excited because he was just coming off a Final Four with Louisville. I knew he had the recipe for winning. As soon as he called I knew I wanted to be here. Even before I took the visit down to FIU, I knew I wanted to be here.
PP: When you did take the visit down here what were your impressions of FIU?
MS: It was a beautiful campus and I saw a lot of nice buildings that I had never seen before on other campuses. The dorms were real nice. Of course, the weather coming from Boston was a lot different. The coaching staff was real genuine with me. They were real honest and I like that.
PP: You have aspirations of coaching basketball when you are done playing. Any coaches you would model yourself after?
MS: Richard Pitino. He is real in your face, so if you are not bringing it every single day he’s going to let you know about it. That really forces you to pick it up or you are going to hear it all day. You don’t really want that. He gets after us and I like that.
On the NBA level and this is going to sound crazy, but I like the way [Celtics coach] Doc Rivers (above right) coaches. He enforces defense as well as offense so I like the balance that he brings. He’s not like [Lakers coach Mike] D’Antoni who just focuses on offense.
PP: Coach Pitino has said that he has not seen all the guards in the Sun Belt Conference yet, but he has said that you are the best if not one of the best shooting guards in the Sun Belt. My question is, if that is true, when is the last time you lost in a game of H-O-R-S-E?
MS: Last year an assistant coach at my junior college beat me and I will never forget that because that was the first time I lost in H-O-R-S-E. I got him to H-O-R before I lost. He beat me with some crazy shots that nobody would ever shoot. On one shot he had one foot on the out of bounds line and on one leg behind the basket. They were some crazy shots that I wouldn’t practice because you can’t shoot those in the game. Another shot was shooting a free throw on one leg and making it off the glass. I would never practice that. Who practices free throws off the glass? He got me with some crazy shots.