Recruiting momentum is back for Indiana. We were fast approaching one year, make that 337 days, since Indiana’s last Class of 2017 commitment. That’s how long it has been since Al Durham Jr. made his Hoosier pledge.
Today finally came the news of Indiana’s second commitment. Justin Smith, a 6-foot-7 forward from Lincolnshire Stevenson High in Illinois, gave his verbal just over two week after making his official visit.
Ranked as the No. 91 overall player in his class, Smith began to show the potential many saw in him this year.
Why did he finally shine? He finally had to. As a sophomore at Stevenson he played alongside five-star point guard Jalen Brunson. With Brunson off to Philadelphia this past year to help Villanova, Smith had to be the man. When our Jeff Rabjohns stopped in the Chicago suburbs to catch a Stevenson game this past season he came back with a clear thought — Smith was a different player.
That same theme came about this past offseason. After an extremely quiet offseason last year playing up with the Mac Irvin Fire, Smith exploded for some big games, taking on a main role with the team during the Nike EYBL circuit.
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So what does this mean for Indiana?
Indiana only had one senior on the roster in Collin Hartman but the NBA could be calling for at least three Hoosiers (Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby and James Blackmon). Add in the normal odds on a transfer and have to think this class might get as big as four or five. So it was time to add another piece.
Smith helps solidify the wing but shouldn’t scare away our top hot board target, Kris Wilkes of Indianapolis North Central. Wilkes is a five-star and shouldn’t be intimidated and is smart enough to know that both players can be on the court together and fill spots other than the point guard or true post position. No, the four is not where they should be but given foul troubles, injuries and game situations, it’s an option a coach is going to want to have in his arsenal.
Smith keeps Indiana very athletic. Add him to Durham and some of the 2016 commits, an Indiana maintains an ability to run and play aggressively at the other end.
Off court risk should be minimal. Smith is the son of a pair of Big Ten graduates and was pursued by Stanford and other top academic programs. He’s excellent in the classroom and looks the part of someone who won’t ever embarrass the program off the court.
Illinois has been a fruitful state for Indiana in the past. Key starters from that state contributed to more than one national title run and the program has begun to build momentum there via the impacts to the team from Max Bielfeldt and Nick Zeisloft. Now the Hoosier staff has a chance to show what it can do with a player from that state over a four year period.