While growing up, I was a huge Clint Eastwood fan. He had the quickest draw in the game and no one could touch him. Maybe Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber likes Eastwood too, because he just received a verbal from the kid with the quickest release in the state ranks.
Jamar Smith was probably the state's best-kept secret until he verbally committed recently to Illinois. Most didn't know who he was. But the big time programs knew - Kansas, Indiana and Wisconsin to name a few.
Many times you go to see a high school player that has Division I basketball skills only to come away disappointed. Not me. From the time the game started until the final horn, Smith was fun to watch.
Smith hit his first five shots - all three-pointers. From the start of his second one, you could hear the fans at Wharton Field House in Moline, Illinois go "ooh" and "ahh" every time the kid put up a shot. Moline's game plan was to deny him the ball, but Smith gave great effort to get open. Smith's former AAU Coach Darrin Bizarre said, "Kedric, if you give that kid one inch to get his shot off that's too much room." Smith finished the night with 29 points - points he worked hard for.
After the game Smith said, "I want to thank all the Illini fans that came out here to see me play. I see you out there." One thing I noticed about Smith was his leadership skills on the court. "You have to be vocal if I consider myself to be the leader," said Smith.
Sometimes Smith gets tired of the physical play that comes with being a good high school player. Teams try to take him out of his rhythm. "I know what they are trying to do to me. I just have to fight my way through it, and I know it's going to make me a better player."
Peoria Richwood runs a motion offense, which was done pretty well for a young high school team. Smith said, "I like motion offense; it's one I can get off in. There's a lot of movement and it let's you create your own shot."
Smith said he plans to come to Illinois and work very hard. If he gets a chance to start great; if not, it will not keep him from trying to earn that position.
Watching freshman guard Rich McBride shoot the basketball early on made my jaw drop from time-to-time. There will be a time when Smith and McBride will be on the floor at the same time. When that happens the old Assembly Hall scoreboard will get a workout.