2010 Focus: Lenzelle Smith, Jr.

Over the past year Lenzelle Smith Jr. has become one of the top sophomore basketball players in Illinois. Smith, a 6'3" 190 lb wing plays his high school basketball for Zion-Benton High School but saw his stock really rise this summer while playing on the AAU circuit for the Illinois Stars.

Smith has developed his skills at all levels of the game. He can shoot effectively from everywhere on the court, play great on the ball defense, rebound well for his size and handle the ball. Smith also displays his athleticism by throwing down some impressive dunks.

"We feel that we can put him out there anywhere and he will get the job done," said Zion-Benton head coach Don Kloth. "He has such a tall frame it is easy for him to shoot over most defenders and that also allows him to rebound over post players that have a height advantage."

"He just works really hard every day," said Zion-Benton assistant coach Bob Worthington. "When it comes to Lenzelle he never stops, after practice he stays around and puts in extra time to help his defense."

Smith has certainly become a more effective defender as he recently guarded Scout.com's fifth ranked shooting guard in the Class of 2008 in Georgia Tech bound Iman Shumpert when Zion-Benton faced off against Oak Park-River Forest at the Lane Tech Thanksgiving tournament. Smith held Shumpert to just nine points while he was guarding him for the first three quarters of the game.

"Shumpert is a really good player," said Smith. "He is big, fast and strong and can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court. But I just kept my hands up and stayed in his face."

Lenzelle is just a sophomore, but has drawn a lot of attention thus far. Schools such as Wisconsin, Texas A&M and Southern Illinois have showed a lot of interest in him already.

"Those are the top three that contact me wanting to see Lenzelle play," said Zion-Benton athletic director Lonnie Bible. "We expect more schools to catch on and contact us within the next year or so."

Another important attribute of Lenzelle is the hard work he puts in off the court, in the classroom. He has had at least a 3.5 grade point average every quarter that he has attended Zion-Benton thus far.

"I know that's something that a lot of the schools are going to look at," said Smith. "I can't just focus on my basketball skills; I have to focus on my class work. Southern Illinois has talked to me a lot about that, that's what I like about that school."

Lenzelle still has plenty of work to go before college, but with the way he works on and off the court, he could be a name to watch in the Class of 2010.

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