NC State basketball: Terquavion Smith is embracing new role

After a conversation with the Charlotte Hornets’ staff, Terquavion Smith decided he would return for his sophomore season at NC State.

The Wolfpack star, who entered his name in the NBA draft pool and received positive feedback during last month’s draft combine in Chicago, worked out with the Hornets just three days before the June 1 deadline for players to withdraw their names from the draft and remain eligible to return to college basketball.

In speaking to the media on Wednesday, Smith didn’t go into detail on the conversations he had with the Hornets’ staff, but Wolfpack head coach Kevin Keatts offered some insight into Smith’s decision to return.

“He didn’t know that he was 100% a first-rounder,” Keatts told the media on Wednesday. “This is a kid with a big ego and loves to compete. He wanted to be a top 20 player.”

Coming off a freshman campaign where he was second on the team in scoring, averaging 16.3 points per game, and was named to the ACC’s all-rookie team, the 6-foot-4 guard is looking to build on what he did last season.

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NC State’s Terquavion Smith (0) drives to the basket as Wake Forest’s Dallas Walton (13) defends during the first half of NC State’s game against Wake Forest at PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Areas to improve

There’s no doubt that Smith can score at the college level. He was one of the best spot-up shooters in the ACC last season. As the year progressed, the Greenville native also showed an ability to get to the basket.

At 169 pounds, the big question was if his frame could handle an 82-game NBA season.

“I really worked on being in the weight room this offseason,” Smith said.

Smith — who started 25 games last season, shooting 36.9% from 3-point range — hopes to play at 175-180 pounds next season for the Wolfpack. Keatts joked not to be surprised if Smith is spotted around town with four pizza boxes.

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NC State coach Kevin Keatts hugs Terquavion Smith after Keatts finished talking with the media in Raleigh, NC, Wednesday, June 15, 2022. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Teams also wanted to see Smith be more of a lead guard. He played mostly point guard at Farmville Central High and shared facilitation duties with Dereon Seabron late in the season a year ago.

“He was a freshman and he had a lot of freedom,” Keatts said. “They (NBA teams) want to see him make better decisions with the ball in his hands.”

While Smith’s 67 assists last season were tied for second, his 54 turnovers were the third most on the team.

As he looks to improve, he views the criticism he received from scouts during the draft process as something that can help him grow.

“I like to learn,” Smith said. “Anytime I can learn and work on my game, that’s the easy thing.”

Becoming more of a leader

Smith was one of the more vocal leaders for the Wolfpack last season.

As NC State’s returning leading scorer and one of only three players who averaged double-digit minutes (31.6) last season, Keatts Smith expects to be a leader and even more vocal in his sophomore season.

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NC State’s Terquavion Smith (0) walks back to the bench with Casey Morsell (14) and Jericole Hellems (4) after a timeout is called during UNC’s 100-80 victory over NC State at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

“He has no choice,” Keatts said. “He is locked in and he is going to be the leader. So we’ve challenged him, not basketball-wise, to become more of a leader. He may come off as a shy kid, but he’s maturing, he’s getting better.”

Smith said he prefers to lead by example — first one in the gym, last one to leave. But he knew a more vocal role would likely await him if he returned. That’s why, even as he was testing the NBA waters, he was watching the Wolfpack roster rebuild from a far.

“I kept in contact with the guys even when I wasn’t here,” Smith said. “It was fun for me, knowing we’re going to have a new team, different players, new bonds, a fresh start.”

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Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV has covered college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central, NC State and the ACC for The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.

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