Signee Spotlight: Mark Smith

Illini Inquirer's breakdown of Mark Smith after signing with Illinois on Wednesday.

Scouting Report: A 6-foot-4, 225-pound force at the lead guard spot. Smith brings the full package to the offensive end. He can handle, shoot, drive and pass. He has superb vision, which enables him to create and find driving lanes -- as well as open teammates once the defense collapses. Smith utilizes his broad shoulders and explosiveness to absorb contact and finish. He has a knack for getting to the free-throw line. And he is a threat to pull up from well beyond the three-point arc. Smith has a high motor and a desire to compete. He rises to the occasion in big moments. He's great in the open floor. He puts defenses in a blender off the ball-screen. Coming from a basketball family, you can see Smith has an outstanding feel for the game. He needs to improve at the defensive end. Smith has the physical attributes to become a great on-ball defender. But he needs to be pushed in that area, and mold those skills and tendencies that are necessary to lock down high-caliber opponents. Once he does that, while fine-tuning his offensive game, he will be a problem at the next level.

First-year Impact: Smith is going to have the ball in his hands. That is what Illinois sold him on, and they have every reason to deliver. Smith will join Trent Frazier, Te'Jon Lucas, Jalen Coleman-Lands and Da'Monte Williams in the backcourt. However Brad Underwood wants to work his rotation, you can bet Smith will be on the court as much as anyone. He has all the ability needed to be the best freshman guard in the Big Ten next season. Smith should average double figures, while providing a handful of rebounds and assists each game as well. It wouldn't be a surprise if Smith was Illinois' best player by the end of his freshman year.

Ceiling: Big Ten POY and NBA Draft pick. Tom Izzo thought Smith could be his next Denzel Valentine. That was a conference player of the year and first-round draft pick in the NBA. Smith won't be sporting the green and white, but he will have that same upside. Just with more opportunity to develop and showcase it in Champaign. Smith has the length and athleticism that you can't teach, which are necessary at the NBA level for the vast majority of guard prospects. Combine that with his smooth stroke and other ball skills, and that is a player who can dominate at the college level and make money playing at the highest level one day.

Reminds me of: Deron Williams. There are some differences in their skill sets. Williams was more refined as a pure point guard, while Smith has more of a knack to score. And this is not to say Smith will be a top-three pick in the NBA Draft. But Smith and Williams share the fact that they are taller, bigger-bodied lead guards. Both don't posses tremendous end-to-end foot speed, but they are a load off the dribble with their strength and body control. They can hit you in a variety of ways. And they have the ability to get up and throw it down. Williams was another lead guard added to Dee Brown's class -- much like Smith was added to Frazier's. A pair of high-level players that agreed to play together and make Illinois win in a big way. Smith can be one of those feature faces Illini fans remember on the great teams in program history. Like Williams, Smith can have that lasting legacy while continuing his career in the NBA.

Quote: "I want to join the likes of Dee Brown, Brian Cook, Deon Thomas, Frank Williams and other Mr. Basketballs that have chosen to stay in state."

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