Former CSU star and current Philadelphia 76er Jason Smith scored six points, grabbed two rebounds and blocked one shot in nearly 13 minutes of playing time in his first game as a pro in the state he was born and raised in Sunday night at Pepsi Center in Denver.
Smith and his 76er teammates fell to the host Denver Nuggets, 109-96.
Around 500 fans from Smith’s hometown of Kersey attended the game, with additional 500 CSU supporters present also.
“I heard you the first time I came into the game and the last time I came out of the game,” Smith said to the nearly 1,000 supporters who stayed to see Smith after the game.
“Wow. Wow,” Smith said, as he began to address to multiple sections full of fans, family and friends from around the state. “I never expected so many people to come out and watch me play.”
On the court, the highlight of the night for Smith on was a jaw-dropping blocked shot, erasing a dunk attempt by Nuggets forward/center Nene in the first quarter.
“(Nene) just grunted and ran to the other end,” Smith said.
Smith was held scoreless on 0-1 shooting after the first two quarters, but the 7-footer added a fastbreak dunk and two jump shots from the top of the key in the second half.
Before the contest, Smith said he had been looking forward to facing the team he grew up rooting for.
“It’s the last game on our road trip. I’ve been looking forward to this for awhile,” he said.
During the postgame meet and greet, Smith signed autographs, posed for pictures and answered questions.
One fan asked Smith who was the hardest player to guard in the NBA. Smith smiled and said: “Shaquille O’Neal. Everybody says he’s past his prime. But he’s still very large and can still score.”
Smith also thanked the fans for their support, gave away his size 16 shoes and even let a fan mess up his sweaty head of hair.
Smith, a former two-time all-Mountain West player with the Rams, is enjoying a successful start to his NBA career during what could have been his senior year at CSU.
Entering the game, Smith had played in all 33 of Philadelphia’s games and was averaging 5.2 points and 3.5 rebounds in 16.1 minutes per game.
Sunday night marked the first time Smith’s father, Jack Smith, got to see his son play live in an NBA game.
Jack was pleased with his son’s performance on the court, but he was perhaps more pleased with the amount of support that showed up for his son.
“We’re really proud of him,” Jack Smith said. “The community of Kersey and the entire state and region (are proud).”