Edwardsville senior combo guard Mark Smith is quickly making a name for himself as a high-major prospect, and the Illini are certainly doing their homework with an open spot remaining in the 2017 class.
On Thursday, Illinois assistant coach Jamall Walker was at Edwardsville High School to watch practice and talk to the 6-foot-4 guard afterwards -- Smith told IlliniInquirer.com.
"He said they're interested in me -- very interested in me. He said they're looking for another combo guard, and that they have one more offer left in the class," Smith said. "(Walker) said Coach (John) Groce is going to come down and see me soon."
The Illini are taking their look and how could you not?
Smith outbattled Jordan Goodwin -- a former top priority for the Illini -- with a 37-point outing in his team's win over Althoff last month. He had 19 points in a win against Belleville East and Illini signee Javon Pickett earlier this week.
"Those were big wins for us," Smith said. "Javon and Jordan Goodwin are good players. I think we guarded them real well. Individually, I just played my normal game -- how I know I'm capable of playing. I got to the basket a lot, made shots and found open teammates."
Smith said that Walker likens him to a former Illini who was a big-time contributor not too long ago.
"He said I kind of play like Rayvonte Rice," Smith said. "I'm strong, physical, a good passer and can shoot it."
Smith averaged 14.3 points, 8.3 assists and 7.2 rebounds per game as a junior. This season, he said he is averaging around 25 or 26 points per game.
No wonder Illinois has him on their radar, and Smith is excited about that.
"It feels good. I'm just blessed to have the opportunity for my home-state program to have interest in me and be recruiting me," he said. "I follow them a lot. I watched them a lot when I was younger. I've been a fan of Illinois basketball."
DePaul offered Smith last month, and that is his first and only high-major offer at the moment. Northwestern has shown a lot of interest as well. The Wildcats went down to watch him play against Pickett on Tuesday. Kansas State is involved too.
Smith is a former Missouri baseball commit, but he is focused on playing basketball at the next level now. And while the Illini have backcourt options for the future, this one will be interesting to follow given Smith's athleticism, toughness and ability to attack off the dribble -- three things the Illinois roster could use.