2004 Focus: Josh Smith

Fingering the top prospect in the loaded Class of 2004 is a tough task. Our early pick – emphasis on early – is Josh Smith. The high school coach of the McEachern product sees big things in Smith's future.

Head Coaches Watch In September

Josh Smith's July was pretty impressive. However, it pales in comparison to his September. The 6-8 Powder Springs (GA) McEachern small forward was in front of college coaches almost every day in July. However, in September, coaches made the pilgrimage to watch him individually.

Guys like Billy Donovan, Buzz Peterson, Jim Harrick, Mark Gottfried, Paul Hewitt, Tubby Smith, Larry Shyatt and Leonard Hamilton made personal stops in September to see him. Just this week, North Carolina State (Tuesday), Clemson (Tuesday), Tennessee (Thursday) and Indiana and Kentucky (both next Monday) will watch Smith at his school.

"There are people here almost every day," McEachern head coach Dave Westerfield said. "They can't talk to him but they let him know they are here. There's someone here everyday. We are talking the top schools in the country."

Westerfield said that Smith recently gave him a list of five schools that he liked early on, but the veteran coach says that list probably will get longer before it gets shorter.

"I don't think he's narrowed it down to everyone," Westerfield said. "Right now his top five are Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Alabama and LSU." The Bayou Bengals have not been by this month to see him at his school. Also, it would probably be unwise to discount Georgia Tech this early as well.

Smith was the most promising member of the Class of 2004 that we saw at the adidas ABCD Camp. His package of perimeter, size, developing skills and superior athleticism are tough to deny. He plays with the Atlanta Celtics traveling program alongside another superior big man, Dwight Howard. It's possible either of them could wind up sitting on top of the 2004 rankings; that's how good they are.

Of course, when you talk about prospects in elite terms like this, the letters N-B-A will usually creep into the conversation. "[Going to the NBA] wouldn't surprise me," Westerfield said. "Whether he's that good coming out of high school remains to be seen."

Actually, watching Smith for a full high school season is something that has yet to happen but it will this year. As a freshman at Whitefield Academy, Smith was ineligible the second semester of his 9th grade year. He was ineligible his first semester of his sophomore season last year at McEachern. "He's doing well now," Westerfield said. "I think he's on the right track and has his on straight. He's working on his grade point average and core GPA. I think he's going to make it [academically]."

Like many high school players with size, Smith is expected to play more inside again this year. However, Westerfield is very aware of his perimeter talents and will put him in a position to succeed. ""He's got to play inside for me and I'll move him out some. [Outside is] where he's being recruited and that's where he wants to play. This is the first year he'll be here in the preseason and in the weight room and that will make a difference."

As Westerfield said, Smith has yet to play a full season of high school basketball and that's kind of scary considering he averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds in limited action last year.

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