BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — All of a sudden, 23-year-old Dhane Smith is a different player, a different offensive weapon, than he initially thought he was.
“It’s weird,” Smith says with a smile before practice in Hagersville, Ontario. “I was always known as an unselfish player. Putting up these goals I feel a little selfish to be honest.”
His ‘selfishness’ has equated to nothing but success for the first-place Buffalo Bandits. Smith has scored 64 goals, the most in the National Lacrosse League this year and nine more than the previous Bandits team record.
Now the young star is on the verge of setting the NLL’s single-season points record, set last season by Shawn Evans. With 123 points, Smith is seven shy of tying the record. He averages about nine points per game and still has two games left to play.
Bandits coach Troy Cordingley sees one reason for Smith’s sudden scoring surge.
“Having maybe the greatest player to play the game coach him – and using the tricks that made him successful – has a lot to do with it.”
It’s true, Bandits assistant coach John Tavares has had a big impact on Smith’s game, a year after the NLL legend played alongside Smith in Tavares’ final season.
“He does these funny plays during practices sometimes,” Smith says, “and we’re like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And it works… he’s so smart.”
Known as “The Great Dhane” to Bandits fans, Smith has stepped into the role of ‘must-see’ player whenever fans pack First Niagara Center. And while Tavares will long be known as the face of the franchise, among the players still on the roster, Smith is doing his best to fill that vacated role, hoping to lead Buffalo to its first league title since 2008.
“I’ve always wanted to be known around Buffalo and whatnot, and I’ve always known JT was the guy,” Smith says. “Growing up watching him play, everyone gave so much respect to him, I’ve wanted to be like that. I never thought it would happen so soon but I’m accepting the role. And you’re never known as a huge player until you help your team bring a championship so I’m hoping to do that this year.”