Little brothers turning heads for Cards, Irish
Chris Smith hears it every day. On the court. On his Facebook page. On his Twitter account.
Over the years the Louisville sophomore guard has learned to tune out the taunts.
He's not as good as older brother J.R. Smith, the athletic swingman for the NBA's Denver Nuggets. Chris is fine with it, though that wasn't always the case.
''When I was younger, I would get caught up in the hype like you've got to do a spectacular dunk, your brother was on ESPN last night,'' said the younger Smith, who is averaging 9.8 points for the 16th-ranked Cardinals. ''Now it really doesn't matter. He's doing his thing. I do my own thing.''
So are college basketball's other little brothers who are stepping out of the shadows cast by their more NBA siblings one basket at a time.
Like Chris Smith, Notre Dame's Ben Hansbrough and Duke's Seth Curry have spent their lives reading about the exploits of their older brothers in the NBA and facing the inevitable comparisons. Smith and Hansbrough can compare notes on Wednesday before the Cardinals (18-5, 7-3 Big East) take on the Irish (19-4, 8-3).
All the younger siblings have worked to be accepted for who they are, showing that losing countless games of 1-on-1 growing up can eventually pay off.
Ben Hansbrough lacks older brother Tyler's 6-foot-9 frame or his All-American accolades. The Notre Dame senior guard, however, does possess a little bit of the fire that made Tyler, now a reserve forward for the Indiana Pacers, one of the greatest players in North Carolina history.
''There's one thing I've taken away from him is his work ethic and dedication to his game,'' Ben Hansbrough said. ''I have been able to translate that into my game. He's taught me that talent is nothing if you don't put in the work.''
Though Ben doesn't have ''Psycho T'' persona that made his brother beloved at North Carolina and despised just about everywhere else, he can be a showman in his own right.
During a loss to Kentucky in December, Ben Hansbrough got in a rhythm and hit a series of deep 3-pointers. After drilling a 25-footer he turned to the decidedly pro-Kentucky crowd at Freedom Hall in Louisville and mimicked putting a pistol back in its holster.
''Why not have fun with it? Why not enjoy the time you're out there?'' Ben Hansbrough said.
Even if it means enduring relentless heckling about being the runt of the litter, if being 6-3 qualifies as a runt. Ben Hansbrough doesn't take offense. He's been the runt his entire life. It never stopped him from jumping in whenever Tyler and Greg - the oldest of the three Hansbrough boys - started mixing it up.
''There was plenty of fighting going on in that house,'' Ben Hansbrough said. ''That's part of what made me what I am, my toughness and personality.''
Ben Hansbrough says his quickness allows him to beat Tyler regularly. Chris Smith has yet to take a seven-game series off J.R., but he's pushed his brother - who has five inches and 20 pounds on Chris - to the limit more than once.
Who exactly owns bragging rights in the Curry family, however, remains in dispute. Stephen, now in his second year with the Golden State Warriors, claims he's still undefeated. Seth isn't quite so sure.
Last ''summer, I won probably half of them,'' Seth Curry said. ''I'm always working toward that. I take pride in that, because those 1-on-1 games, you never know if it's going to get out or people are going to find out what happened.''
There is one area where the little brothers have a decided advantage: The win column.
Smith is the leading 3-point shooter in the Big East for overachieving Louisville. Hansbrough has become the best guard in the Big East not named Kemba Walker while guiding the Irish into the top 10. Curry has provided a steadying presence off the bench for fifth-ranked and defending national champion Duke.
Life on the court isn't quite as much fun for their brothers.
Tyler Hansbrough and Stephen Curry are on teams floundering with sub-.500 records. J.R. Smith's prospects of getting back to the playoffs with the Nuggets likely depends on whether star Carmelo Anthony sticks around after the trading deadline.
J.R. Smith, who went straight to the NBA out of high school, admits he's enjoying the college life vicariously through Chris.
''The experiences he tells me about, I didn't never get the chance to get that at that age,'' he said.
It's an experience J.R. has helped with by providing his younger brother a white Lexus SUV.
Consider it a ''thank you'' of sorts for the way Chris has pushed J.R. to get better - though Chris freely admits he's not as talented as his older brother.
Yet Chris Smith has become one of the toughest players in the Big East, fearlessly throwing his 6-2 frame into the lane in search of rebounds. He's averaging 4.5 boards a game, tops among Louisville's guards. His effort hasn't gone unnoticed by J.R., who spent time in Louisville last summer working out with Chris and the rest of the Cardinals.
J.R. Smith is averaging a career-high 4.0 rebounds a night in an effort to keep up with Chris.
''He called me like, 'I'm trying to be like you tonight. I'm going to go fill up the stat sheet, that's what I'm going to do,''' Chris Smith said. ''He has the ability to do pretty much anything.''
Chris doesn't and he knows it, which is what has made him so valuable to the Cardinals. He was such an unknown quality when he arrived at Louisville in the summer of 2009 after transferring from Manhattan that coach Rick Pitino didn't even recognize him the first time they met.
Now, Chris Smith is part of the glue holding the injury-ravaged Cardinals together.
''The one good thing about Chris is he pretty much stays in his box,'' Pitino said. ''He's having a very good year right now and I don't think his brother is a factor. He knows he's not 6-7 and he knows he's nothing like his brother but he's having a very good year.''
So are Ben Hansbrough and Seth Curry.
All hope to join their older brothers in the NBA one day, joining a unique fraternity that includes Dominique and Gerald Wilkins, Pau and Marc Gasol and Brent, Jon and Drew Barry.
But there is a lot more work to be done in college before that happens.
AP Sports Writers Antonio Gonzalez in San Francisco, Pat Graham in Denver and Joedy McCreary in Durham, N.C., contributed to this report.