US stars ready to shine for Cairns Taipans
NEW imports Scoochie Smith and Jerry Evans Jr will hope to form a formidable east and west coast combination thousands of kilometres from home tonight at the Cairns Convention Centre when they take on the Illawarra Hawks.
Smith, a Bronx-born point guard and Evans Jr, from suburban Los Angeles dined together for the first time on Tuesday evening as the Taipans plot how their revised line-up will attack last year's grand finalists.
Smith said Evans Jr, who will step in as an injury replacement for Michael Carrera, will adjust quickly to his new surroundings having already played with NBL club Melbourne United this preseason and spent time with the Sandringham Sabres at the SEABL level.
"We went to dinner the first night he got here and he's really cool," Smith said of his teammate.
"He's spent some time in Australia already so he's more accustomed to living here than I am.
"It's a new situation for him and a new city so he's got to get used to the changed environment.
"Right now he's just working on the plays and being on a new team but I think he'll be fine."
Smith has had an interrupted preseason due to an ankle injury he sustained in a practice game against American University.
But the Dayton Flyers alum was a standout in the Taipans' most recent exhibition games against the Perth Wildcats last month.
Asked if he was a "pass-first" style point guard in the mould of New York basketball legends like Mark Jackson and Rafer Alston, Smith said his game was shaped by the legends of the Big Apple but moreso informed by the game's contemporaries.
"Not really," he said. "I think I'm more of a playmaker. I think the team will be really confident when the ball is in my hands.
"I salute to those old guys and I definitely watched them growing up. They're a testament to how New York ballers play and they brought up the culture for us.
"But I kind of like the present (day players).
"My good friend (Bronx-born NBA star) Kemba Walker - he's like a brother to me - I watch a lot of him."
Settling into Australian life hadn't been too difficult, Smith said, but he did find himself yearning for the small creature comforts of home.
"It hasn't been too big of an adjustment," he said.
"I miss drinking iced tea, lemonade, fruit punch with my meals. Here, you generally just get water or soda and I don't drink a lot of soda."