Hoosiers Start Eyeing '09 Chicago Combo

Indiana might not be done with its 2009 recruiting class after all. The Hoosier staff was on hand to watch Chicago Marshall H.S. guard Darius Smith over the weekend. Smith's prep coach talks about IU's interest and about what kind of player Smith can be at the next level...

Bloomington - Chicago Marshall H.S. Coach Henry Cotton believes his star senior Darius Smith is more than just the best of what's left in the '09 recruiting class.

He thinks the 6'2", 180-pound combo guard is the top senior in the state of Illinois, period.

It's hard to argue with Cotton's assessment of his unsigned senior. After all, Smith is a fourth-year starter who has helped Marshall H.S. to three straight trips to state, including a state championship in 2008. Smith averaged 14.2 points per game as a junior on a team that went 32-4 and averaged 17 points, six rebounds and five assists as a sophomore.

This year he's averaging 20 points per game on a Marshall H.S. team that is off to a 5-1 start.

"Whoever gets him, they're getting one of the best unsigned seniors in the country," Cotton said. "I haven't seen everyone in the country, but Darius is a player. To me, in the state of Illinois he's the best."

College coaches are taking notice. Schools from just about every major conference have inquired about Smith, and at last weekend's Loop Capital Shootout a half dozen college coaches were in attendance for the purpose of watching Scout.com's 21st ranked shooting guard. Marshall dropped a 46-41 decision to St. Ignatius but Smith didn't disappoint, scoring 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting.

Among those in attendance were members of the IU coaching staff. Cotton said the Hoosiers began expressing interest in Smith last week as a potential spring addition to their '09 class.

"We've talked, and they've been honest that they were looking at someone else but now they're going in a different direction and they're taking a look him since he's signing late," Cotton said.

At this point Indiana's contact has been from the assistant coaches and a scholarship offer hasn't come yet, so Smith is waiting to hear from IU Coach Tom Crean before making any determinations about how seriously to consider the Hoosier program.

"They said they are interested, but they haven't put (an offer) on the table," Cotton said. "We haven't talked with the head coach yet. Darius is the type that the head coach is what he waits on, because that's the person that tells him what they're recruiting for and recruiting him to do."

Ultimately, Cotton said the relationship with the coaching staff is what will tip the scales in favor of one program.

"He's going to want to feel like he's at home, like he has fathers around him, like the head coach is a father figure and the assistant coaches are like uncles," Cotton said. "Darius believes in a family type basketball program."

Whoever winds up getting Smith will get a player that can do a variety of things on the basketball court. At Marshall H.S. Smith splits his time between the point guard and shooting guard positions, a role that Cotton believes he can do at the next level as well. He's shown off the quickness to match up with jet-quick point guards and the athleticism to lock down rangy shooting guards as well.

His experiences playing in the Windy City have also provided him with the chance to prove himself against players who have gone on to become household names. Recent No. 1 NBA Draft pick Derrick Rose and Kansas star Sherron Collins are among the players Smith has found himself matched up against as a prep.

Throw in the fact that Smith is already academically qualified, and it all adds up to the kind of impact player that can be hard to find in the spring signing period.

"Everyone all likes his hustle, his aggressiveness, unselfish play, leadership, and they know he'll do whatever it takes to win," Cotton said.

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