Cal extends late scholarship offer to guard Mark Smith

A basketball romance has produced a big point guard with an exceedingly high basketball IQ, and Cal has now come calling.

2017 guard Mark Smith vividly remembers the first time he beat his father -- Southern Illinois-Edwardsville guard Anthony Smith. It was after one of the elder Smith's practices as head coach of Madison (Ill.), in the Madison gym. He was a ballboy for his dad, then Madison's head coach, and he was in sixth grade. 

"After a workout, I played him in the gym, one-on-one, and that was the first time I beat him," Smith said. Now, Anthony coaches at a school down the street, one division lower than his son. "We never get to play them," he said, regretfully.

Both Smith's father -- who now coaches at Metro East Lutheran -- and his mother, Yvonne, played basketball for the Cougars. It's how Yvonne, a forward, met Anthony -- then SIU-E's point guard -- so Mark comes by his hoops acumen naturally.

"I've learned from them a lot, and taking that information in has helped my game a lot," said Smith. It's one of his best attributes, and one which earned him scholarship offers from both Utah and California this week.

"It's been a good week, man," Mark Smith chuckled. "It means a lot just to get an offer from California. It's big-time. It's great to see all my hard work paying off. It's a great feeling. They recruited me in the summer a little bit, too, so to get an offer from California, it's a good feeling, especially from good guys like Cuonzo Martin and Tracy Webster. They're good guys, and to get an offer from them means a lot."

The Golden Bears have several connections to Smith -- Both Martin and Webster (who went out to see Smith early this week, and played at nearby Wisconsin) hail from the same area of the state as Smith, and it was a former Martin assistant at Cal -- Jon Harris -- was the first to offer Smith, who stands at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds.

"I've been building a relationship with them," Smith said of Webster and Martin. "I know they're building a good program, and I know there's a kid from Illinois -- Charlie Moore -- that goes there, and he's having a good season. I've never crossed paths with him. [Distance] doesn't really matter to me, being far from home, but it's exciting to see Charlie doing good. He's a state kid, so I always want to see people from the state do well. It's exciting to see that he's having a good season."

Having already taken official visits to SIU-E, Wright State and Northern Illinois, Smith has two left, and he's building relationships with coaches from both Cal and Utah, hoping to take his last two official visits out West.

"Hopefully, I get to take a visit out there, and get to see what it's like, down in California, Utah, and just see what it's like down there, see what the atmosphere is and what the school's like," Smith said.

He'll have to hurry to see the Bears, who play five of their final seven games on the road, starting tonight at 8 p.m., against Arizona State. Cal has certainly already liked what it's seen in him.

"My game, I'm kind of a big guard, and I'm a playmaker," Smith said. "I get downhill, get into the lane and try to make plays for my teammates. I can finish at the basket, and I can knock down all my shots and hit it from deep. I think my ability and my basketball IQ, I know how to play the game and know what to do on the court. A lot of schools like my basketball skills and my playmaking ability." Top Stories