Friedlander: Quick comeback for Terquavion Smith leads to quick bounce back for NC State
RALEIGH, N.C. – It’s said that the best thing you can do after falling off a bike is to get right back on again.
Apparently, that also holds true for basketball players who get carted off to the hospital on a stretcher after taking a hard foul.
Not only was Terquavion Smith back on the court looking no worse for wear on Tuesday, just 3 days after miraculously avoiding serious injury in a fall at North Carolina, but his first touch of the game against Notre Dame found him right back on the bike again.
The NC State star stole the ball at one end of the court. Then with a burst of speed took the ball all the way to the rim, just as he did on the play he got hurt.
There was contact on this play, too. And Smith ended up on the floor. But he got right up, made both free throws and kept right on playing.
“That was that moment when I realized I was good,” the ACC’s leading scorer said.
Good in a physical and mental sense, maybe.
But while Smith said he felt no ill effects from the elbow and neck pain he suffered after getting knocked to the ground by UNC’s Leaky Black, his shooting stroke was still in rehab mode.
He missed all 8 of his field goal attempts in the 1st half and didn’t make his 1st basket until finally getting a 3-point to fall from the left wing 3 1/2 minutes into the 2nd.
Even though the Wolfpack star finished the night only 2-of-14 (2-of-9) from beyond the arc, he still found a way to help his team get the bounce-back win it needed after Saturday’s loss in Chapel Hill.
Smith made 11 free throws, handed out 6 assists and made 3 steals while scoring 17 points to help State hold off the Irish 85-82 at PNC Arena.
“He wasn’t Terquavion Smith tonight,” his coach, Kevin Keatts said afterward. “But I thought he did some good stuff.
“He only knows 1 speed. The kid’s gonna play hard. I knew he would play the way he played. I did think he settled a little too much for 3s. But if I got popped like that, I’d probably take more 3s also.”
Popped is putting it lightly.
Smith was going in for a layup when he was knocked out of midair by Black, who was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul on the play and was ejected. He hit the deck so hard, the thud could be heard over the roar of a sellout crowd and stayed down for nearly 10 minutes while medical personnel worked on him.
As it turns out, the backboard was used as a precaution. X-rays taken at the hospital were negative.
He began to get the feeling back in his elbow almost immediately and while the pain in his neck lingered, his condition improved quickly enough that he ended up going out with friends to a Raleigh nightspot later that evening, as seen on video posted on social media.
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Keatts said he knew his star would be ready to play against Notre Dame when he saw him make back-to-back 3-pointers at practice on Monday.
The actual decision wasn’t made until just before game time. When it did happen, it was Smith who made the call.
“I’m glad he made the decision to play,” Keatts said. “Because there was a moment that if he didn’t tell me he wanted to play, I wasn’t going to play him. He fought through some soreness. He obviously practiced (Monday) and he came out and competed.”
It wasn’t a shock to anyone in the Wolfpack locker room that he did.
He might be slender at 6-4 and just 165 pounds, but if his 2 college seasons have proven anything – other than that he knows how to put the ball in the basket – it’s that he’s not afraid to get bounced around.
“T’s a fighter,” said teammate Jarkel Joiner, who carried State against the Irish with 28 points. “He falls all the time like that in practice a lot. I thought he was OK at North Carolina, but he didn’t get back up. It was a little scary when he got carried off on a stretcher, but he’s a tough dude.”
Smith admitted to being a little scared himself as he lay on the ground, writhing in pain, surrounded by teammates and medical personnel. He said it’s the first time he’s ever suffered anything more than a minor bump or bruise on the basketball court.
Once he realized that his season and his team’s NCAA Tournament chances hadn’t been derailed by his hard fall, there was never any question in his mind what he had to do next.
It’s what everybody’s supposed to do when they get knocked down.
Get right back on the bike and keep riding.