Northridge grad Pete Smith set to realize Assembly Hall dream

Pete Smith

A self-described "huge IU basketball fan," Pete Smith attended at least one Indiana University game every year as he was growing up and often dreamed of playing at Assembly Hall in Bloomington.

He'll likely realize that dream Tuesday.

No, he won't be donning the Cream and Crimson, but Orange and Blue will do just fine, thank you.

"It's just a blessing to be in this situation," the former Northridge High School star said over the weekend as he and the rest of the Hope College Flying Dutchmen prepared for Tuesday night's contest against the Hoosiers in a season-opening men's basketball exhibition.

The 7 p.m. game will be shown over BTN Plus.

Smith is a sophomore guard for Hope, a perennial NCAA Division III power in Holland, Mich.

"It really was a dream of mine to play for Indiana," Smith said of an aspiration not uncommon among the state's youth, "so just to play at Assembly Hall, probably the best (arena) in the country, and in front of that many fans, it's kind of a dream come true. I can't really imagine it."

And that's even though Smith should be able to imagine it better than most.

After all, not only has his family long had four season tickets behind the visitors' bench, with Smith occasionally able to attend games, but he's already witnessed his brother Elliot playing in a similar exhibition seven years ago when Grace College visited IU.

"I just remember being right behind the bench and me and my brothers going crazy for him," Pete said of Elliot, then a freshman for the Lancers. "I would've been in seventh grade, and I remember he played really well. It was a down year for IU (the Hoosiers would finish 10-21 in the second season of coach Tom Crean's reclamation project), but Grace was only behind by about four (42-36) at the half.

"I remember one play where Elliot drove, and I was like, 'Oh, wow, he could've dunked that,' but he didn't."

Elliot did score 14 points, dish four assists and make two steals in 34 minutes, though, while yet another Elkhart County product, sophomore Duke Johnson from Jimtown, had six points, a team-high nine rebounds and a game-high six blocks in 29 minutes for the Lancers during a 96-73 loss.

Pete Smith knows the Dutchmen might be an even bigger underdog Tuesday. The Hoosiers are ranked No. 11 in the preseason Associated Press poll.

"We know they're going to be a lot longer than most teams we play, and more athletic," Smith said, "but we're just going to go out there and try to match their energy, play as hard as we can. We know it might take a little longer on offense to get a good shot, but we know we can shoot and we're going to get after it."

The Dutchmen are coming off a 24-4 season that included winning the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association title at 13-1 and leading all of D-III in average attendance at 2,638. The team's two all-conference selections from a year ago, guard Ben Gardner from Carmel and center Brock Benson, have graduated.

Hope has a JV program as well. Smith started for that team last season, while his cousin, fellow 2015 Northridge grad Tom Morrison, sat out with a knee injury. Morrison is expected to play for the Dutchmen JV this season.

The Hope contingent was slated to leave for Bloomington early Monday afternoon by bus, then engage in a shoot-around in the evening, before playing Tuesday and then busing the 290 miles back to Holland after the game.

"I think it's going to hit me during the shoot-around," Smith said of his anticipation, "but once the ball goes up Tuesday, I'm just going to be locked in to play."

Apparently, with plenty of support behind him. Parents Brian and Lauri, each former IU students, may attend. Elliot and all three of Smith's younger brothers — Hank, Joe and Sam — are likely to attend. Smith was unsure if his two older sisters, Connie and Sarah, would be able to go, but added that several friends will likely make it.

As still one more bonus, the game will mark the inaugural one at IU since the completion of a $45 million renovation project that included changing the full name of its 17,222-seat arena to Simon Skjodt Assemby Hall.

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