Jeremy Werner // Illini Inquirer

Illini target Mark Smith visiting Champaign on Saturday

Illini will have a big visitor in town on Saturday for their game against Minnesota.

Edwardsville rising star Mark Smith will take a trip to Champaign on Saturday for Illinois' game against Minnesota -- Smith's father told IlliniInquirer.com on Thursday.

Smith will square off with five-star Illini signee Jeremiah Tilmon on Friday night in East St. Louis in what will be a heavyweight battle. The 6-foot-4 guard got the best of Tilmon and the Flyers in the first meeting in early January with 26 points and 13 rebounds.

Tilmon is also expected to visit Champaign on Saturday, as his mother told IlliniInquirer.com last week.

As for Smith, he has been the hottest name in the state since mid-December and it doesn't look like that's changing anytime soon. He also remains as a huge priority for the Illini.

Head coach John Groce and assistant Jamall Walker were in to see Smith at practice on Wednesday, per Smith's father. Indiana head coach Tom Crean watched Smith's game last week, and Indiana came again on Thursday and offered. Butler was in on Wednesday as well. Kansas assistant Jerrance Howard stopped in to see Smith last week too.

And it goes further. Duke has put in a call. So has another heavyweight. Ohio State and California are expected to be at the game on Friday.

It's lit. And while Illinois has a season to get straightened out, they have to keep working on Smith to keep pace.

He visited for Illinois' Big Ten home opener on New Year's Day and picked up an offer. Making a return trip to campus is a good sign. But this is a battle.

Stay tuned to IlliniInquirer.com for more.


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