Illinois’ Mr. Basketball, Mark Smith, is closing in on a college decision, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Smith was in Kentucky for the Derby Festival Classic last week, where he scored seven points, and recorded six rebounds and four assists. He’ll likely be back in the Commonwealth later this week for a visit to Kentucky.
It’s still tough to get a sense of who’s in the lead for Smith. Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan State and Ohio State were the most-mentioned schools in Smith’s conversations with reporters over the weekend, so you’d have to believe those are the top contenders.
John Calipari visited Smith a couple of weeks ago, offering him a scholarship, telling him how he’d fit in the backcourt next year, and comparing him to some past Wildcats.
“He showed me videos of Jamal Murray — how he can spot up shoot and play off the ball and run off screens. Hit opens shots,” Smith said.
Calipari sees Smith as a combo guard, he said, which isn’t really what Smith prefers, but he’s comfortable in that role.
“I feel like I’m better with the ball in my hands as a point guard, but I can play either/or,” he said.
Smith also said that he became friends with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, his roommate for the Derby Festival Classic and future Wildcat. Gilgeous-Alexander likes Smith, and wants to team up with him at Kentucky.
“He’s a cool guy. He’s got a lot of talent and a great future. And hopefully he comes (to UK),” Gilgeous-Alexander said.
Smith also commented on his recruitment with Michigan State and Illinois, and his comments certainly make them seem like legitimate contenders for his talents.
“We could be a Final Four team — have a chance to win a national championship if I was to come there,” Smith said of Michigan State. “They feel like they can develop me into an NBA player.”
Smith also said he knew about Miles Bridges’ decision to return to school for his sophomore season ahead of time, as Bridges told him when Smith visited East Lansing.
And of course, Illinois is the home-state school. They’ve been recruiting Smith for quite some time.
“I like Coach (Brad) Underwood,” Smith said. “I feel like he’s going to do good things there. They said I would have the ball in my hands a lot and be able to make plays. And they’re bringing in good players.”
Underwood took the head coaching job at Illinois last month.
Smith is planning on visiting Ohio State and Kentucky this week, and may take an unofficial to Illinois before making his decision. The four-star guard could announce as early as next week.
Well, at least if everything goes according to plan, but plans could change if schools like Duke get involved.
Could we be seeing another Kentucky vs Duke recruiting battle brewing?
The Blue Devils could have a big need at guard with Luke Kennard already gone for the NBA, and Grayson Allen and/or Frank Jackson could still declare. You could make a good argument for Duke having a bigger need for Smith than that of Kentucky, depending on if any of those aforementioned guys leave.
It’s unclear if Smith will visit Duke, but this obviously could be a big deal in his recruitment.