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Mizzou Hoops Player Review: Mitchell Smith

After a half decade in Columbia, Mitchell Smith is finally closing out his time at Mizzou. How will he be remembered?

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the home stretch of our annual Mizzou postseason player reviews, and weirdly enough, we’re still talking about the seniors. I suppose that’s what happens when (a) your team is senior-laden to start with, and (b) you spend much of the first few weeks of the offseason trying to reckon with a wave of outgoing transfers.

Today we’re going to discuss one of the longest-tenured Missouri Tigers of the past decade — fifth year senior Mitchell Smith. Smith was the last vestige of the Kim Anderson era and, in what is hopefully a sign of the program’s trajectory, went from one of the worst teams in the power five to one that convincingly earned an NCAA Tournament bid.

To catch up on the rest of our player reviews, you can click any of the links below.

Mitchell Smith By the Numbers

Season Minutes % Offensive Rating Usage Rate Points % Effective FG % True Shooting % Off. Rebounding % Def. Rebounding % Assist Rate Turnover %
Season Minutes % Offensive Rating Usage Rate Points % Effective FG % True Shooting % Off. Rebounding % Def. Rebounding % Assist Rate Turnover %
2020-2021 50.7 112.3 12.3 6.1 47.8 54.6 7.9 19.5 6.3 15.7
2019-2020 52.6 106.5 13.5 7.4 42.1 48 7.2 19.1 6.3 11.4
2018-2019 28.1 100.7 13.9 3.6 53.3 55.7 7.5 18.2 8.1 26.3
2016-2017 6.4 86 18.4 1.2 58.5 55 3.7 21.4 5.3 26.1

What went well?

Smith caught a ton of heat from Missouri fans over his penchant to miss wide-open threes. But behind those easy-to-notice flaws hid the fact that Smith had by far the most effective offensive season of his career. Out of the top eight members of Mizzou’s rotation, Smith led the way in offensive rating at 112.3. Despite a shrinking usage rate, Smith drastically improved his two-point percentage (by about 17 percentage points) and saw a small uptick in his free throw percentage as well. He also posted career highs in rebounding and cut back on the total number of three-pointers that he took. Was it a matter of making better use of his limited minutes? Sure, but Smith did it, turning himself into an incredibly valuable rotation piece.

What didn’t go well?

Smith was mostly efficient on offense and offered Cuonzo Martin some defensive versatility. But despite his improvements around the margins, Smith still couldn’t develop consistency on the offensive end. This may seem like an unfair criticism; after all, Smith has improved quite a bit in his time on campus and arguably exceeded expectations from his original recruiting ranking. But Smith’s size, athleticism and willingness to shoot offered some semblance of promise that he’d develop into a scorer on multiple levels. However, Smith’s three-point shot couldn’t break 30 percent, and he couldn’t consistently find ways to create mismatches in the paint. None of this, however, should take away from the fact that Mitchell Smith should rightly be remembered as a loyal, hard-working, energetic Tiger.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Missouri vs Arkansas
In four years as a Tiger, Mitchell Smith turned himself into a solid rebounder, a versatile defender and reasonably efficient offensive piece.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

In summary...

Does Mizzou Basketball exist if Mitchell Smith isn’t there to participate? It’s a half-joking kind of question because Smith was the longest tenured Tiger since Laurence Bowers... one of the few to make it five years. When Mitchell Smith joined the Tigers it was September of 2015, and to give you an idea of what that looked like:

Kim Anderson was the coach, Ryan Rosburg was a senior, Wes Clark and Russell Woods were juniors, and Terrence Phillips, Kevin Puryear, Cullen VanLeer, and K.J. Walton were on campus as freshmen. Mitchell was the perfect bridge from the disastrous Kim Anderson era to the brand building era of Cuonzo Martin. Even though Smith only played in 11 games under Anderson, he showed he was fully bought into the vision Zo had for the program. He only started 17 games during his career but he embodied much of what we can consider the turnaround under Martin.

Smith dug deep and became a scrapper. Maybe best known for his scoring as he entered college, Smith had a great looking midrange jumper and a soft touch on his jump shot. But what he turned into was a high effort energy guy off the bench. Some of my best memories of Smith are of drawing charges and ripping offensive rebounds away from more athletic and more talented SEC opponents. He bought into what Coach Martin was selling and it was really fun to watch.

Maybe more than anyone on the roster, Smith understood the roles you have to accept. Not everyone is going to be the star; not everyone is going to get the accolades. You need guys who are willing to do the dirty work, and that’s who he became. A guy unafraid of doing what it took to help the team.

As a former coach, I loved what Mitchell Smith became. I enjoyed watching him compete. Sure, the modern basketball ‘switchable one through four’ was cool and fun to watch, but I loved watching him get after it on the glass. He wasn’t blessed with an elite level of athleticism but made up for it with effort. Thanks for all you gave, Mitch.

Sam Snelling