Smith, a two sport standout at Oldham County High School, has really blossomed on the hardwood since turning his entire attention to the hardwood. After a well spent first season at SE Illinois CC under the tutelage of Coach Todd Franklin, Smith has positioned himself for serious consideration next season as the top JUCO player in the nation.
Smith was honored on the first team NJCAA All-America squad, was named the MVP of the Region XXIV Tournament and was named to the All-Tournament team at the NJCAA national tournament in Hutchinson, KS. Not a bad first season in JUCO land!
Having committed to the Cards, Smith can now focus solely on improving his already outstanding all around skills. He'll play at Rick Ball's JUCO Top 40 camp in July as well as the two day BallStars event at Vincennes CC next month, where he'll face off against the nation's top JUCO talent.
Smith showed a wide array of skills and athletic ability on his first day as a member of the Cardinal basketball family during unsupervised pick up games against both current and former Cardinals.
The scouting report on Smith in high school was that of a great athlete that needed to develop a jump shot and perimeter skills to reach his vast potential.
Well, Smith has certainly taken those words to heart and it seems he's found both a jumper and some impressive perimeter skills. In the action we saw, Smith drained several threes, including one from the left wing that hit nothing but net and another from well beyond the top of the key. Smith also showed the ability to knock down shots off the bounce, draining a 17 foot pull up from the right wing in transition. He also has a soft touch around the basket and showed he could score on the block as well.
But the most exciting skill Smith brings to the table is his versatility. He can play inside or out, shoot it with range or flush it home on the break. He's strong enough to defend the post and athletic enough to guard smaller players on the perimeter. At 6'7, Smith has long arms and is effective blocking shots and getting rebounds and he's skilled enough to get the ball off the board and take it coast to coast and finish at the other end. He also dropped a couple of impressive dimes in the paint.
Against 6'10 Nouha Diakite, one of the top JUCO transfers in the country, Smith used his strength to defend on the block. He's also big and athletic enough to be a factor on the offensive boards and slammed more than one offensive rebound home.
His size and wing span will cause tremendous problems for opponents on the perimeter, particularly smaller guards and forwards who attempt to shoot over his outstretched arms. He has the athletic ability to cause havoc in the press and the talent to be an exciting finisher in transition. In other words, he'll fit perfectly in the Cards up-tempo, pressing style of play.
Smith's addition bolsters an already loaded Cardinal perimeter for the 2004-05 season. With 6'2 Taquan Dean, 6'7 Francisco Garcia, 6'8 Nate Daniels, and 6'3 Brandon Jenkins already in the fold and a point guard like 6'1 Sebastian Telfair strongly considering the Cards, UofL could have the best perimeter players in the country in two years.
With two talented players already in the fold from the class of 2004 (Donta Smith and Terrance Farley) and a loaded perimeter, Coach Pitino now can turn his focus to landing the big men in the class of 2004 he'll need to make a run at the Cards third NCAA Title. 6'9 Mohamed Tangara, a rebounding machine from Mount Zion Academy, 6'8 Tello Palacios, a skilled and versatile power forward from Centerreach, NY, and 6'8 JUCO standout Taj Gray, appear the prime targets on the Cardinals recruiting radar to fill two of the remaining three scholarships for 2004.
The remainder of the June quite period and July evaluation period should provide more interesting twists and turns along the recruiting trail as Coach Pitino looks to wrap up one of the nation's top recruiting classes this summer.
Stay tuned to ITV for the inside scoop on UofL athletics and Cardinal basketball recruiting!