He’s one of the most polite people you’ll ever meet and one of the hardest workers. Ikenna Smart was thrown into an incredibly important role as UB’s starting center last season with Raheem Johnson out because of injury.
Hometown: Greensboro, NC (Born and raised in Nigeria)
Height: 6-10, 235 lbs.
New to Buffalo?
Last season, UB’s front court was in dire straits. Senior Raheem Johnson was expected to be an experienced starter for the Bulls but unfortunately suffered a nagging foot injury for the course of the entire season. Enter Ikenna Smart: A project the Bulls had been developing for the past year. Smart — born and raised in Nigeria until coming to the States for basketball — didn’t start playing basketball until about five years ago and was originally a soccer player. Despite the inexperience, Smart played in all 35 games last season and started in 31 of them. He averaged 3.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game but was exceptional on the defensive end when playing at the top of his still developing game. It’s easy to tell which game was his best because his face lit up when he saw that he had double digit scoring on the board (Smart scored 11 and had seven rebounds versus Kent State).
Further Reading and Viewing:
“I was in the ACC for 12 years — I’ve played and then coached there, and Ikenna has the size (he’s 6’10”, 225 pounds) and athleticism of the high-major bigs,” Watkins says. “West Virginia has about four or five of him. At this level in the MAC, there are not a lot of guys who have his size, so we are fortunate that we have him to put our guys against” during practices.
With UB’s depth, Smart probably won’t start this season and that’s perfectly fine. Given the positive gains he made last season, I think another year of developing while also coming off of the bench will be good for him. Ikenna has the opportunity to be a major force in the MAC by the time his senior season rolls around. His favorite shot — a powerful reverse jump hook — will only get more lethal with time. I would not be surprised to see a more consistent effort from him this year and possibly netting 7-8 points per game.