One on one with Dennis Smith, Jr.

One of the top point guards in the class of 2016 hosted the Duke coaches recently for an open gym. So where do the Blue Devils and Dennis Smith, Jr. stand with one another? We sat down with the five star prospect for the complete story.

How has the school started for you?

Dennis Smith: It’s been good so far, I’ve been keeping my grades up and balancing basketball and my grades pretty well.

Have you had a good amount of college coaches visiting you recently?

Not really, just three so far. On three different occasions with several different schools. NC State came twice and Duke came once and Florida came too.

What, for you, has been the highlights from those visits?

I wouldn’t really say there’s too many highlights but I would definitely say that my interest has grown in Florida after the visit. They got a pretty cool coaching staff and they made a pretty nice pitch to me while they were down here.

What was the pitch?

Basically they told me that they want me to be the guy, he didn’t say that he would give me the ball all the time, but I would be able to lead them, so it sounds like a good plan. I’m going to have the ball, what he’s trying to say is I wouldn’t have to take every shot. I’m going to be able to play my game if I go to Florida.

What was your relationship like with the Florida staff prior to this recent visit?

I had talked with one of the assistants pretty often and I had texted back and forth with Coach Donovan a few times, but that’s about it. We definitely got closer after their visit.

What did you learn from their recent visit that caught your attention?

Personally, Coach Donovan is real cool and really down to earth, he has a pretty good sense of humor and he told me that you always have to try and make things fun, no matter what you are doing. He seems like that kind of guy. He said I’m their #1 priority guy at my position and I had already had an offer from them.

From a list pecking order perspective, has Florida moved up the list after this visit?

Everybody is even right now.

You mentioned NC State visited you twice, how did the two visits break down?

First visit they came in to watch me work out with the team-we were weight lifting and doing squats/leg work that day. They came in for a little while and then they also watched my photo shoot that I had with a paper, we didn’t really talk a whole lot but then they came down again and we talked a lot more. It was different seeing them there, it’s definitely different seeing Division 1 college coaches come in just to watch you lift weights, but I just went out there and was being me, whether they were there or not.

How did the conversation go with the NC State staff during the 2nd recent visit?

They told me they want me to come in and be the guy at the point guard position, they want guys who play for them who want to be different, like they want the in-state kids who really want to come to NC State. It was a nice pitch and I’ve been talking with NC State for a long time.

How would you contrast your relationship with NC State now as opposed to how it was earlier this spring/summer?

Relationship definitely grew stronger, I think with them, Duke and VCU I have the strongest relationship with the coaching staffs.

Do you talk with any of those three programs more than the other two?

Duke and NC State are pretty even in terms of how much I talk with them.

How regularly do you talk with Duke?

About every three days or so. I talk to Coach Capel the most, he’s from Fayetteville, so it’s easy for him to understand what the process is for me. He understands being a small town kid who is highly recruited, what the thought process is and all that.

What kind of items do you discuss with Coach Capel since you talk so frequently?

Basically if you have to leave home, if it’s the best decision for you then it will be good but family is always important and is the closest people to you. If you have to leave home, it just means you need to stay humble.

Did you talk with Coach Capel while he was traveling overseas with USA Basketball?

We didn’t talk as much as we normally do during that period, but we still talked a decent amount. I texted him while he was gone and asked him how he was doing and how things were going, stuff like that.

Did you have opportunity to talk with any of the other Duke coaches while Coach K and Coach Capel were overseas?

I had talked with Jon Scheyer a little bit, but that was it. He was kinda filling in for them.

How about the communication with Coach K?

Actually, I did talk to him a little bit, I talked with him when I was up in New York, he just asked me if I watched the game and things like that.

Was him reaching out then a surprise or did you have an idea it was coming?

Yeah it kinda was, I didn’t expect to hear from him since he was going to be so busy. It definitely told me a lot about him that he took the time out while he was overseas and busy to reach out. He texted me while I was on the bus heading for Elite 24 practice and the conversation went pretty well, he was checking in on me.

With today’s visit from Coach K, was that the first time since the Elite 24 that you and him had talked?

I had texted him about a week earlier and he told me that they were going to be coming down. I talked to him after that.

How did the visit go today with Coach K and Coach Capel?

The visit went well, they came down and talked with my dad and they talked with me. They are a pretty cool coaching staff. They said I’m a priority recruit at the point guard spot right now in 2016 and they are looking forward to recruiting me, Harry (Giles) and Jayson (Tatum).

How often have you been talking with Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum about playing together in college?

Yeah, me, Harry and Jayson, we talk about that whole lot and also Seventh Woods too. I talked about it with Seventh actually last week. It’s a lot easier to play with somebody who is a great player and a great person off the court.

From what you have discussed about playing together with Seventh, Harry and Jayson—how serious do you think you guys are about playing together?

It’s still up in the air right now, it’s a serious option for me, Harry and Jayson, but we’re not sure how far we are with Seventh on that.

In your evaluations, do you follow who else is being recruited by the various schools?

I’m not paying attention to it at all, whatever the media says, I talk directly to the coaches so…

What else did Coach K and Coach Capel discuss with you?

It was a lot, basically they said that if I came in, it would be like a family with basketball while I’m there the whole time. That was the main point though. It was a lot of joking going on, having a good time.

Was there any info provided on their vision for you as a player there?

They said they think I could definitely play either guard spot but I would definitely be the point guard and there’d be times where I could go off the ball because they would want me to score as well.

How did you feel about where your relationship was with Duke going into today’s visit?

The relationship with Duke has been strong for awhile, it can’t do anything but progress and I think that’s what it did today.

Were there any unanswered questions you had with Duke going into today’s visit?

No, there were none at all.

Summing it up, how would you classify your interest with Duke and Duke's with you?

I think the feelings between me and Duke are mutual. I like Duke a lot and they like me a lot. Today reinforced that for me. I feel like I'm a priority at point guard and I was the second person that they visited out of the 15 or the 16 class, it was Harry and then me, that’s something I’m paying attention to.

You visited campus with your dad earlier this year, right?

Yes, and we had talked, my dad had talked with them when we went on the unofficial there, but they mostly came and talked to me today. My dad talked a lot more to them on the unofficial visit.

On your visits, was it more of an information gathering thing or was it you guys asking questions?

It’s really a mixture, that was our first time meeting them in person, so they had to cover everything. We toured the facility, they have a nice facility, whenever I was on campus, it was really more about being a student there from what we saw. It’s a nice campus, they got a lot of new stuff coming and the stuff that’s there is already pretty nice. It’s a great academic school as well. They are automatically a great school because Coach K is there and they win, which is good because everybody wants to win. I think my dad liked Duke a lot after the visit.

Who else is advising you on the recruiting process?

My family but they are not providing any input in terms of where I’m going, they are going to support me wherever I do go.

So what’s the next steps for you Dennis with your process ? Any more visits being lined up?

Future visits, I don’t have anything planned but I will be looking forward to taking some official visits during my junior year.

Which schools are you seriously considering for the earlier official visits this year?

I’m sure I want to take one to Florida and Kansas and as of now those are the only two schools I know for sure I want to take an early official visit to. With Duke and NC State and VCU I’ve visited them a couple of times for unofficials, and I know officials and unofficials are different but those 3 schools are a lot closer, so it’s easier to go visit them unofficially.

How would you classify the the conversations with the Kansas coaching staff?

They haven’t been there, but Monday we’re having a college workout and they are going to be there. I haven’t talked to Kansas a whole lot, but my father has, he talks to them the most.

What is the main attraction to making an early official?

They obviously win and Bill Self is a great coach, they play an up-tempo offense. They have offered me too.

Do you have scholarship offers from everybody at this point that you are hoping to have received an offer from?

I’ve got offers from everybody I’ve been hoping for to have one.

You had mentioned Kentucky over the summer and your desire for more interest from them—is there anything happening with them right now in your recruitment?

I haven’t heard anything from Kentucky, not a letter or anything, so….

That sounds like you are potentially moving on from Kentucky—that a fair assessment?

Yes sir.

With you planning earlier official visits, are you thinking you want to make a decision sooner rather than much later in your process?

I can’t really tell right now. I think I’ll make my list shorter by the end of my junior year.

Since you have visited VCU, NC State and Duke unofficially, do you feel the need for officials back to those programs?

Actually I do think I’ll get to the point where I’ll need to take officials to those schools, just to be up there for a few days, to see how it would be.

What’s your ideal vision for the visit process?

I’m definitely going to take five and then I’ll see how I feel about each one after I get back.

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