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Mr. Smith comes back to Boston

01.26.10 at 2:24 am ET
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Former Boston College star Craig Smith defends Rajon Rondo during the Celtics' win over the Clippers Monday night. (AP)

Former Boston College star Craig Smith defends Rajon Rondo during the Celtics' win over the Clippers Monday night. (AP)

BOSTON — For all the attention paid to the return of Marcus Camby to town as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, it’s easy to forget another former New England college star who came back on Monday night at TD Garden.

Craig Smith scored 2,349 points in his collegiate career at Boston College (2002-06), placing him second on the school’s career scoring list, trailing only Troy Bell.

In his senior season, he averaged 17.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.8 blocked shots as the Eagles reached the Sweet 16. There, they lost a heartbreaker to Villanova at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. He also attended Worcester Academy for a year as a post-graduate student before college.

When the time arrived to turn pro following his four years at BC, he was regarded as one of the most promising young power forwards in the draft. Yes, he was just 6-7 but he could rebound and proved he had a scorer’s mentality in college. Those factors were enough for the Timberwolves to take him in the second round (36th overall) in the 2006 NBA draft.

After two seasons in Minny, he was dealt this past summer, along with Sebastian Telfair and Mark Madsen to the Clippers in exchange for Quentin Richardson.

On Monday night, Smith scored 13 points in 21 minutes for the Clippers in a 95-89 loss to the Celtics.

“Craig’s been giving us a lot of good work off the bench the last couple of weeks, and you know when we’re scoring down there, we’ve been going to him and he’s been able to deliver for us and we had a good mix,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. “Like I said, hey, we had good inside opportunities, we got to the free throw line some, and we didn’t convert on some fast break opportunities and some wide open shots and that was the big difference for us.”

Former UMass star Marcus Camby, now 35, has mentored the 27-year-old Smith in Los Angeles, and it’s paying off. Smith is averaging 7.1. points and 3.4 rebounds a game off the bench.

“He’s great, he’s been scoring for us a lot coming off the bench,” Camby said. “I know he’s excited about being back in the area also, having gone to BC.  He’s a guy we really rely on to get some offense off the bench.”

And with the Clippers down, 71-61, following Tony Allen’s layup with 10:49 left in the fourth quarter, it was Smith the Clippers turned to. And the former Eagle didn’t let his team or Camby down. Following two free throws by Ricky Davis, Smith scored his team’s next 11 points to single-handedly keep the Clippers in the game as the Celtics saw their lead shrink to four, 77-73.

“I was trying to turn it up a little bit more,” Smith said. “I felt in the beginning of the fourth, they were being real aggressive and got up into a double-figure lead so I sort of took it upon myself just to be aggressive on both ends and try to be communicative and once I got the ball, just take it to them or make a play of some kind.”

And while the Celtics would not relinquish this fourth-quarter advantage, Smith reminded every Boston fan of how good he was while playing a few miles down Commonwealth Avenue four years earlier.

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