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The Real Chris Livingston: fiend or fraud

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The first time Steve Smith saw Chris Livingston play on the AAU circuit, he knew he was a special talent.

“The word on the street then was that he was looking to leave (his Akron, Ohio high school) and find somewhere he would play against a better schedule,” said Smith, the legendary coach at Oak Hill Academy.

The 6-7 Livingston transferred to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia to play for Smith and became a McDonald’s All-American who will play next season at Kentucky.

He averaged 18.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.9 steals per game at Oak Hill. He led the team in scoring and rebounding and was second in assists and steals. He averaged 31.1 points, 15.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 4.7 steals and 4.0 blocks as a junior for Buchtel High School in Akron.

“He wanted to practice with and play against great players to make him better,” Smith said. “But he was also a great leader for us. He always says the right things. Some kids of his ability like to lead and some do not. I wanted him to be a coach on the floor. Off the floor he also encouraged teammates and was always very positive. Guys love playing with him and I cannot say that about every great player I have had.”

Smith said not to worry about the 6-7, 210-pound Livingston being able to handle the physical adjustment to college basketball.

“He’s very athletic, very explosive,” Smith said. “He likes to attack the rim. He shoots well but needs to be a bit more consistent. He does have 3-point range.

“He really works on his game. He’s an excellent passer, much better than most people realize. He’s almost like a point forward. He also loves to rebound and he can guard multiple positions. He has a long wingspan and I think he could be a great defender because he wants to be coached and he wants to learn.”

Smith sent Keldon Johnson to UK a few years ago and expects Livingston to make a similar impact next season.

“I think he is going to be a really good player and I think it will be hard to keep him off the floor,” Smith said. “I think there is a great chance he could start or he could have a big role coming off the bench.

“He is so physically mature. He looks like a junior or senior in college now and he plays that way. He’s very aggressive.”

Smith has coached 32 McDonald’s All-Americans and has had 34 players go to the NBA, including 16 first-round draft picks. He believes Livingston will also eventually play in the NBA.

“He has a great chance to play professionally with his talent and his willingness to learn,” Smith said. “Like a lot of players, he wants to be there (Kentucky) a year and move on. But Keldon was there for two years. (Ron) Mercer was there two years. Doron Lamb was there for two years.

“So whatever happens, it will work out for him and I think Kentucky fans are really going to love watching him play.”

Larry Vaught
Larry Vaught is a seven-time winner of the Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year award and has covered University of Kentucky sports since 1975. Larry now has a syndicated UK sports column appearing in 34 newspapers across the state as well as http://www.yoursportsedge.com/, and http://www.cameronmillsradio.com/. Larry also joins Mark Buerger and Anthony White on WLAP Sunday Morning Sports each week in Lexington as well as appearing each Tuesday with Tom Leach on The Leach Report.

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