BENTONVILLE - Van Buren junior forward Mitchell Smith (6-10, 210) thinks he is going to enjoy playing alongside Bentonville junior Malik Monk instead of against him as he does during the high school season.
The pair are part of a loaded Arkansas Wings’ AAU team that also includes Fayetteville guard Payton Willis, Pulaski Academy guard Lawson Korita and the Southwest Christian Academy duo of Eric Curry and Tyrik Dixon.
“It is so different from (high) school ball,” Smith said Saturday morning. “Almost everybody that is good in-state is on this team and playing with Malik is more fun than playing against him for sure.
“I don’t have to do as much, but I also have to bring my intensity and effort every game at this level. I think this is going to be a great spring and summer for me.”
Monk is one of the top five players nationally in the 2016 class while Smith - who had 7 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks in the Wings' 77-32 win over the Tulsa Gators Saturday morning - should push himself onto the national radar this spring and summer.
Smith had 25 points, 17 rebounds and 8 blocks in his first state tournament game this season before falling to Monk - who had 42 points - in the next round.
“Mitchell Smith is a really nice player,” Monk said. “He can shoot the ball for a big and can catch the ball when you get it into him and finish with it. He is someone that I am really going to enjoy playing with.”
Smith has offers from Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Creighton as well as interest from Kansas, Iowa State, Mississippi State, Tennessee and others.
That list could grow if he flourishes this spring and summer for the Wings, who will play in the EYBL circuit before college head coaches.
“it’s big time and you have got to bring it every game when coaches are there,” Smith said. “I’m just trying to bring it, step it up, work hard and hopefully I can show what I’ve got.”
Arkansas - which went 27-9 this season under head coach Mike Anderson - remains at the top of Smith’s list.
“I like how they got deep into the tournament this year and I like what Coach Anderson is doing,” Smith said. “I like his style of play. We are talking all the time and I am always thinking about the Hogs.”
Smith was impressed with what Razorback sophomore forward Bobby Portis - the SEC Player of the Year and someone he patterns himself after - got accomplished this season.
“Bobby stepped it up this season and I like what he did,” Smith said. “I think I am like him, but I little different. I think I am a little more athletic. I can face up like he does and I think I can run the court like he does.”
Smith has added some 30 pounds of weight since the end of his sophomore high school season.
“I can bang more than I can last year, I am not as scared as I was of kids last year because I can go head-to-head with them,” Smith said. “It makes me finish more at the rim.”
Smith notes that he is not just laying the ball up now.
“Six months ago, I was just weaker with my post moves and stuff,” Smith said. “Now I can incorporate the post stuff in, bang and finish more. I am dunking it instead of laying it up. That’s a big plus for me.”
Bentonville knocked Van Buren out of this year’s state tournament and beat them twice.
“It’s going to be big next year,” Smith said. “He dunked on me in our game last year, but that is not happening next year. I am going to dunk on him next year.”
The Wings will continue pool play with games at 3:40 and 7:40 p.m. on Saturday and then play in bracket play Sunday beginning at 8:20 a.m.
Smith Anxious for Big AAU Push
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