It's been a heck of a week for Edwardsville senior guard Mark Smith.
Put up 35 points on Mr. Basketball favorite Jordan Goodwin and win the Prairie Farms Holiday Classic and MVP, have John Groce and assistants sitting courtside, and on New Year's Day, pick up an offer from Illinois after watching them defeat Ohio State at the State Farm Center.
He's become a big deal in the state of Illinois in a hurry. Smith scored 37 points in a win against Goodwin and Althoff back in late November, which raised plenty of eyebrows. Illini assistant coach Jamall Walker went down to Edwardsville to see him at practice not too long after that, and Smith has had his home-state program's attention ever since.
The 6-foot-4 combo guard is strong, bouncy, an attacker off the dribble and he has a sweet outside stroke. The Illini are big fans of those attributes, as well as his toughness. Walker has told Smith that he reminds him of former Illini Rayvonte Rice.
http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1742394-smith-talks-illini-o... Illinois hosted Smith as a recruiting guest at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis for the Braggin' Rights game earlier this month.
"It's a pretty cool moment right now," Smith told IlliniInquirer.com from his courtside seat. "I've grown up watching Illinois my whole life and watching this game on TV. This is just an amazing experience to be here."
Smith was seated next to Illini signee Javon Pickett, and he is highly interested in joining the talented Illini class -- one that currently ranks eighth in the country by Scout.com.
"It's a great class. That would be great to be a part of," Smith said.
"I'm about to get a buzz in his ear about us so he can just come on and join the family," Pickett said.