Smith ready to tackle all challenges

CLEMSON - Steve Smith is all too familiar with the obstacles that are presented to a basketball coach at a football-first school.

The newest assistant on Brad Brownell's staff arrived to Clemson after spending the previous three years at Georgia Southern, a Division I-AA powerhouse on the gridiron.

Smith believes success on the football field can be parlayed into success on the hardwood.

"What we tried to do down there is use football as a major recruiting tool," he said. "People like to see fans in the stands. If you can get them here, and they see excitement and hoopla going on around football, that just makes it more attractive for a basketball player."

Before his stint at Georgia Southern, Smith coached at USC Upstate from 2002-09. There, he helped Upstate transition from the Division II level to Division I. The Spartans played in the Atlantic Sun during his last two years in Spartanburg.

Now, he's rubbing elbows with the big boys in the ACC.

"I think the perception -- I've always tried to shoot for the moon in recruiting. I'm going to get here and try to recruit the top 10 players in the country, especially in this area," Smith said. "We're going to recruit the top players in the state of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. We're going to do that.

"When I was at Georgia Southern, being a mid-major, I tried to do that. We had some in-roads, but you got some doors closed on you sometimes. When you're an upper echelon kid, you don't want to hear from a mid-major program."

Just a few weeks in, he's already noticed a big difference in recruiting.

"Now they're a lot more likely to answer and even call you back. When they call you back, they want to play in the ACC. Now, you actually get a chance to make the sales pitch," Smith said.

He didn't take any time to make his presence known on the recruiting trail. Before the official announcement of his hire was made by the university, Smith offered a pair of highly-touted class of 2014 prospects.

Since then, he and the rest of the Clemson hoops staff have hosted several camps and high school shootouts.

"It's been busy, but it's been great. I've been having fun with it," Smith said. "Everybody here has been very welcoming, open arms. Everybody has been very helpful.

"All of the Clemson people have been very good. The staff, along with the fans [and] the community, has been very supportive. Now, it has been hectic, because I had to hit the ground running."

A native of Varnville, working at Clemson is a "dream come true."

"I've been a basketball fan my whole life. This is definitely the upper echelon of college basketball, arguably the best conference in America," Smith said. "To go the route that I took, and work my way through it on hard work and determination, and I got here, there's a lot to be said for that."

CUTigers.com Top Stories