Boston College Men's Basketball Alumni Interview: Craig Smith Part I
Former Eagle forward Craig Smith's career at Boston College can be summarized in a single descriptor, dominant. He finished his career with 2,349 points and 1,114 rebounds; ranks second on the school's career scoring list and first on its career rebounding chart ... scored 122 points in seven career NCAA Tournament games; ranks first on BC's all-time tournament lists with 75 rebounds and with 53 field goals made" Helping a team Transition from the graduation of former Eagles great Troy Bell was never going to be easy, but Smith certainly helped ease into a new era at Conte Forum.
Former Head Coach Al Skinner was well known for finding "diamonds in the rough" recruits as evident with Troy Bell. Upon seeing Smith at Worcester Academy it was clear that the draw to play alongside the explosive Eagles guard was going to be enough to net Smith a well regarded recruit in the 2002 class. "Al and company insured me that I was going to be an important piece of the program and getting to play with a player like Troy Bell in the Big East was going to be great!" Skinner's staff was determined to bring in the big man from LA but not without an initial hiccup "They were very supportive and even when I didn’t make my first recruiting trip flight (long story) they still made me the top priority."
Smith's time at Boston College brought a trip to the NIT, followed by three NCAA tournament appearances and a Sweet Sixteen appearance as a senior. What was their drive behind the success? Smith said "We were a group of dogs who wanted to prove that as a group were one of the best in the country. We pushed each other, got extra workouts in together, hung out together, laughed a lot and had each others back."
As mentioned before, BC had many under the radar recruits on the roster and it was necessary for the group to become tight knit to battle in what was a tough and physical Big East Conference. "We had a breakfast club where we would lift early in the am, go to class, go to practice, then do the graveyard shift and work on handles, offense and shooting in the evenings.We were ALL locked in."
Boston College finished Smith's sophomore year with an NCAA appearance that ended with a crushing loss to Georgia Tech. "My junior year we were sick and tired of being disrespected. The year before we almost beat Georgia Tech, who was the runner up in the championship game, and we had the majority of our team back, minus Uka (Agbai)." The following year, the Eagles would go on to have the greatest start in program history with a 20-0 record. To fans and pundits alike, the 20 game winning streak was a pleasant surprise, but not to the team. "We were excited to know we had a chance to do something special and once we got closer to the record which was 19-0 in the Big East at that time we were focused on getting 20-0."
The adversity would continue for Smith's senior campaign as BC moved from the Big East to the ACC. "The transition felt like another test of having to prove ourselves. We were also dealing with so much more media coverage, which was exciting because we knew we had a great team going into that year." The Eagles began their inaugural season losing their first three conference games which called for a closed meeting for the team. The senior leadership rallied the team and they rebounded as they would go on to win 11 of 13 ACC games.
Smith's senior year also saw the forward guide the Eagles to the ACC championship game, ultimately falling by two at the hands of J.J. Redick and the Duke Blue Devils. The Eagles would go on to make it to the Sweet Sixteen before a crushing loss to Villanova in overtime. Although they were unable to make the program's first ever appearance in the final four a reality, Smith capped off one of the most successful careers in BC's history.
Smith's grit was on display in a crucial game towards the end of the schedule at NC State. This past spring, he was asked his most memorable moment at BC, to which Smith noted the NC State game.
Smith's other favorite moments include beating a top ten Syracuse team at home. Which led to Smith experiencing fans rushing the court. Another big moment was his senior day against Virginia Tech, explaining "Second was a photo I have in my man cave, of senior day, where some fans are holding a “Thank You Craig” sign from the crowd."
With all the success on the court, there were other moments at Boston College he looked fondly on. Smith highlights a snowball fight during his freshman year as a favorite memory during his college years. For an inner city kid from LA this was a novel experience, explaining the snow ball fight was "epic!!!" Smith goes on to list BC Lower Campus breakfast on Sundays and his acting debut on a show called "The BC" as other moments that were highlights during his time at BC. For everyone wondering, you can find Smith along with the rest of the 2005-06 basketball team here.
Smith had a multiple big moments during his time at Chestnut Hill. Playing nationally televised games, landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated were just a few. But there is one that stands above all "Graduating from a very prestigious university like BC. What more can I say…having a degree from BC was and still is an amazing accomplishment."
Next week, we will look into Smith's career after Boston College