Mr. Illinois Basketball winner Mark Smith is set to announce his college decision on
Wednesday at 6:00 P.M. CT at Edwardsville High School. The 6-foot- 5 senior combo guard
averaged 21.9 points, 8.4 assists, and 8.2 rebounds per game in his senior season at Edwardsville.
As a standout baseball player as well, Smith was committed to Missouri to pitch for the Tigers before
decommitting and deciding to focus more on basketball. Mid-major schools were the only ones
to offer Smith due to a shoulder injury until his senior year. Since then, his rise up the recruiting
ladder has been exponential. So, with that being said, who has the best shot at landing a
commitment this Wednesday?
Michigan State: Tom Izzo and the Spartans came in very late to the recruiting party but rose to
the top quickly. Smith took a visit to East Lansing in early April and rumors spread quickly that
he had given Izzo a silent verbal commitment. However, no new news has come out recently to
support that lead and many believed MSU had fallen out of the running until Izzo recently
conducted an in-home visit with the guard. Michigan State is currently poised for a preseason
top-five ranking and will return 6-foot- 7 guard Miles Bridges who many thought would go pro
following his freshman season. If Smith were to sign for the Spartans, starters minutes would not
be guaranteed immediately due to their plethora of experience guards but Smith would certainly
have the opportunity to get significant playing time on a potential national championship
Illinois: Before John Groce was fired, Illinois had all but locked up Smith. They were the earliest
non-mid- major program to give Smith an offer and gave him the opportunity to play with a
nationally ranked recruiting class. Now, Groce is gone and Jeremiah Tilmon (four-star center)
has decommitted and so has three-star guard Javon Pickett. Brad Underwood has had to rebuild
this recruitment up from scratch but has done a tremendous job. He was able to keep ESPN 100
guards DaMonte Williams and Trent Frazier and if Smith were to accept the offer, he would
have a chance to rebuild the Illini program which hasn’t been nationally respected since the years
of Dee Brown, Luther Head, and Deron Williams. He would also be the first Mr. Illinois
Basketball recipient to play for Illinois since Jereme Richmond in 2010. Smith took an official
visit to U of I last week which went very well according to Smith’s father. If Underwood is able
to get Smith on board, he could make a name for himself as a recruiter of highly rated players,
something his predecessor was never able to do.
Ohio State: Is it merely coincidence that Mark Smith is set to announce his decision
immediately following his official visit to Columbus? Buckeye fans don’t think so.
Unfortunately, rumors of whether or not Smith would even take his OSU visit were swirling
around beforehand. Ohio State came on late to this recruitment as well but have made significant
progress in their case. The Buckeyes’ roster gives Smith a chance to start immediately and
starting a college career in the driver’s seat can never be overlooked. On the flip side, Thad
Matta has not pressed the gas on this recruitment like other schools have which could give Smith
the impression that he is not as important to OSU as he is to other schools.
Missouri: Missouri has by far the most interesting case in this recruitment. Smith was once
committed to pitch for the Tigers’ baseball program so obviously, he is comfortable with the
campus and likes the atmosphere at Mizzou. New head coach Cuonzo Martin has also amassed a
huge recruiting class which includes the top overall prospect, Michael Porter Jr. If Smith were to
play at Mizzou next season, he would have a key role in what could be a monster season for
the Tigers. However, Smith has not taken an official visit to Missouri since the battle for his
signature really began to heat up. Smith has also spoken about how he wants to “be the man”
when he arrives on campus and with Porter already committed to play in Columbia, it would be
tough to get out of his shadow.
Duke: Although an official visit to Duke was never taken, the Blue Devils are by far the most
prestigious school to recruit Smith. Duke was the last school to officially offer but if Smith wants
to choose the school that gives him the best shot at playing professionally, Mike Krzyzewski’s
coaching is the way to go. Krzyzewski conducted an in-home visit with Smith over the phone
last week but it is tough for anyone to say with confidence that Mark Smith will attend Duke
because he has never been on campus. Unfamiliarity with the program might be Duke’s Achilles’
heel in this situation but Krzyzewski has worked his magic before.
Photo via Scout.com