Van Buren's Smith Reaching New Heights

Van Buren junior center Mitchell Smith (6-10, 195) has elevated his game on the AAU circuit this spring and summer and he and his Arkansas Wings will be trying to make it two titles in as many weeks as they compete in the 16-and-under national tournament this week in Louisville.

With a Nike Peach Jam Sweet 16 title loaded up on the bus, Van Buren junior center Mitchell Smith (6-10, 195) and his Arkansas Wings teammates left South Carolina headed to Kentucky on Monday with another title on their minds.

That would be awarded if they were to win the 16-and-under AAU National Tournament in Louisville, which begins on Wednesday with pool play.

“We did play well in the pool play at the Peach Jam, but got it all together for bracket play and we are hoping to ride that momentum into this week and win it all,” Smith said. “We just have to play together just like we did last weekend.”

Smith, who averaged 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds last season for the Pointers and finished his season with a 23-point, 14-rebound game in the Class 7A state tournament, is excited about his own individual play so far this spring and summer.

“I have really made an effort to get down on the post and work on my post moves,” Smith said. “I've also tried to work on my shooting and my handle, just trying to be the most complete player I can. But I know getting down in the post and getting with it is where I needed the most work.”

Smith, who moved to Van Buren from Macon, Ga., in 2007, so far has offers from Arkansas-Fort Smith and Ouachita Baptist.

But his work in high school and in AAU action so far this spring and summer has drawn interest from Arkansas, Creighton, Georgetown, Missouri State and Missouri Southern.

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and/or one of his assistants have been at each event of Smith's that was open to college coaches this spring and summer.

“They have definitely been showing me a lot of love – and not just me, but they are talking to my family and telling me how much they think of me as a player,” Smith said. “It's been exciting and makes me want to just keep working harder to get better. It would be great to play at Arkansas. That's certainly what I want to do at this point.”

Smith joins Fayetteville guard and Wings' teammate Peyton Willis, Pulaski Academy's Lawson Korita and Bentonville's Malik Monk to give the state at least four Division I prospects in the 2016 class.

Willis, a 6-2 guard, and Smith were among those that helped the Wings to the title last weekend in North Augusta, S.C.

“He is a great player and someone that is just very hard to stop because he is so quick and does so many things well,” said Smith, who started last season at 170 pounds. “He is a guy that you can always count on to get a bucket.”

As one of the nation's top 10 prospects in the 2016 class, Monk grabs the lion's share of the headlines in Arkansas.

“That's okay,” Smith said. “He is a fantastic player and I have fun competing against both him and Peyton in our (7A West) conference. We just try to go out and do our things and not worry about all that.”

Smith, whose father played soccer for Georgia Tech, is hopeful that Van Buren can make a run to a state title next season.

“We lost some key guys, but we have some solid ones coming back and we have had some transfers that I think are really going to help out,” Smith said. “I think we will be right there at the end.”

This week's tournament will be the end of the AAU circuit for Smith, who will teaming with Monk and others on next season's 17-and-under Wings' squad.

“I will be playing with the 17s next season,” Smith said. “I think I got a lot better playing on this level this season and I think I will be ready to make an impact on the next level next season.”

Mitchell Smith goes up for a dunk last season.

Malik Monk shoots over Smith.

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