Smith Has Pointers Flying High
Before joining a star-studded Arkansas Wings AAU squad this spring, Van Buren junior star Mitchell Smith has a little bit more work to get done during the high school season.
Smith (6-10, 210) and the Pointers (20-5, 11-1) have two more regular season games this game and then the Class 7A state tournament next week at Springdale Har-Ber.
They’ll be competing against teams like Bentonville, North Little Rock and Fayetteville among others.
Van Buren - winners of 15 of its last 16 games since late December losses to North Little Rock (64-59) and Memphis Ridgeway (57-53) - has already wrapped up the Class 7A Central top seed in the event.
“We are just playing well together and pointing toward the state tournament and trying to win it all,” said Smith, who had 33 points and 13 rebounds against North Little Rock. “There are going to be a lot of great teams there. It should be quite the challenge, but we feel up for it.”
Smith - who joins Bentonville’s Malik Monk as the only two juniors in the state so far with Arkansas offers - is averaging 14.0 points and 10.1 rebounds this season.
That scoring average has jumped to 15.6 in conference action for Smith, an excellent free throw shooter.
Smith had 15 of his game-high 19 points in the opening half Tuesday night in Van Buren’s 72-40 win over Alma.
The Pointers play at Siloam Springs Thursday night in a make-up game and then host Russellville Friday night to finish off the regular season.
The only loss in the last 16 games for Van Buren was a 55-36 one at Russellville back on Jan. 30.
“We really feel like we owe them one because we just didn’t play well at all that night,” Smith said. “That’s one we really want to get back.”
He has certainly taken note of how Arkansas program has taken flight this season and how his favorite player Bobby Portis - who he patterns his game after - has been doing.
“They have been playing great,” Smith said. “I can’t say enough about how great Bobby has been playing and (freshman point guard) Anton Beard has added so much to the team.
“When you throw Michael Qualls, (Rashad) Ky (Madden) and Alandise Harris in there, they are just really playing well and the program is headed toward the top.
“It’s a place I can really see myself playing,” Smith said.
Smith has offers from Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Creighton with new interest from Kansas and Tulsa.
That list is likely to grow when he joins Monk for the Wings AAU spring and summer in the EYBL League.
Those two will be joined by Fayetteville guard Payton Willis, Southwest Christian’s Eric Curry and Tyreek Dixon as well as Pulaski Academy sharpshooter Lawson Korita.
“That’s going to be a lot of fun playing with the guys this spring and summer,” Smith said. “I think we are really going to the shock the nation with how we are going to play.”
At some point this summer, Smith will likely turn his attention toward recruiting more than he is at this point.
“I will sit down and talk with my dad and my coach (Randy) Loyd sometime this summer and really start thinking about it more then,” Smith said. “It’s all about winning the state title right now.”
Smith took a tumble while going for an alley oop during the first half of a 59-43 win at Conway on Feb. 7.
It was a scary moment for Smith, who missed the rest of the game and thought he had messed up his knee.
He returned the next game for Pointers, who recently lost a starter for the season.
“It was a very scary moment and I was really afraid that my season might be over at that moment,” Smith said. “But I got right to the doctor and got treatment and it turned out okay.
“It did make me realize how important it is to not take anything for granted,” Smith said. “It also has me wanting to work even harder and get more done each game.”
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