Basil Smotherman spent the summer improving his basketball skills and growing physically. Listed at 6'-4" last season, he had grown an inch by early July and appeared closer to 6'-6" by the end of July. With a father standing 6'-8", Smotherman may still be growing.
What makes that unusual is the fact he is a tremendous outside shooter with excellent ball handling skills. He is a guard regardless of his height. And he has the intelligence and court awareness to be an asset to any team.
At the time of this interview, Smotherman was in a shooting slump. Normally a devastating three point specialist, his shot was not falling. He took things philosophically.
"Things have been going good for me, except it's been kind of tough right now. I can't really make my outside shot. I've just got to get to the basket right now. It's gonna come. I'm in a little bit of a slump. You've just got to go inside and get to the line. Maybe it will fall today."
As is true of all good shooters, Smotherman understands his shot comes and goes. The key is to retain confidence, knowing it will begin to fall again soon.
"It does make a difference. You can't get down on yourself. You have to keep your head in the game and keep shooting. Right now, my teammates help pick me up. I've just got to make shots.
"If your shot isn't going down, get to the rim and get a couple rebounds, make steals, hit your teammates, encourage them to keep up. Maybe you'll get something good out of that."
In a way, a shooting slump is a good thing for Smotherman. It forces him to work on other parts of his game. Matt Green, his coach with the EG All-Stars 15U team, says that is exactly what he needs.
"Basil is a good shooter from the outside. He has to work on getting to the basket. He's got good leaping ability and is good at going in for rebounds and doing some other things. But he's a big-time scorer by the time it's all over with."
Illinois coach Bruce Weber is well aware of the lefty from Indianapolis Heritage Christian. He has known Smotherman Sr. for a long time. Jr. doesn't have a scholarship offer from the Illini yet, but that could change at any time.
"Illinois has some interest in me," Smotherman relates. "Jay Price has talked to me a little bit, and they've talked to my dad. They've been to a couple games. I haven't had much of a chance to talk to them, but I'll talk to them when I get down there. They want me down there to look over the campus and everything."
While he struggled with his shot at the Highland, Indiana, AAU Tournament, he blossomed in Merrillville at the end of July. He was leading the fast break, making good passes, setting teammates up for easy buckets and rebounding. And yes, his outside shot was back.
Much of the time, he was the best player on the court. He has three scholarship offers already, but more are certainly expected in the near future.
"I've got offers already from Xavier, Purdue and IU. That's three good schools right there, and through the recruiting process maybe I'll get a couple more. It's too early to tell you where I want to go right now."
Indiana schools may have an advantage in Smotherman's recruitment. But with Illinois only two hours away, perhaps he will consider it a viable option. Will he insist on staying in his home state for college?
"I'm not gonna say right now, but I'm a momma's boy. It would be fine if I stay in-state close to home. But to get a good education, it's fine in-state or out of state. It depends on where you want to go. In state or out of state is fine with me."
What is he looking for in a college?
"The style of play, the coaching, and their history of going to the tournament."