At this point, it's hard to project the 6-foot-3 junior as a point guard at the next level because he currently lacks the necessary decision-making and play-making skills. That was evident Friday night against Chicago Simeon at the Marshall County HoopFest.
He certainly possesses the look and athleticism of a big-time shooting guard except for one key ingredient – his outside shot too often misses the mark, though he did hit 2-4 three-pointers Saturday night after an 0-2 showing the night before.
But this much isn't in question; Nolan Smith is a ‘player.'
There's a reason – actually three – why Smith ranks among the elite guards in his class.
First, he's a terrific defender with an intensity and enthusiasm that is rare among high school guards. That much was apparent when he picked Derrick Rose not once, but twice late in Oak Hill's narrow win Friday night. These weren't meaningless steals either, they came with Oak Hill clinging to leads of 57-55 and 61-57.
Second, Smith is nearly impossible to stop in the open court or when he decides to take the ball strong to the basket. Smith scored most of his 21 points against Rose and Simeon in transition. He's capable of scoring multiple ways on the break, whether it's a dunk, a twisting lay up or the nice spinning jumper off the glass he made over the 6-foot-2 Rose.
Lastly, the Oak Hill standout is a clutch free throw shooter. With the game in doubt against Simeon in the fourth quarter, it was Smith's 6-6 foul shooting that ensured the victory for Steve Smith's Warriors. "I just felt like I had to step up and make them," Smith said.
Clearly, Oak Hill and Smith benefit when North Carolina signee Tywan Lawson runs the show. Lawson didn't make the trip to Benton over the weekend, forcing Smith to play out of position at the point. With Lawson at the controls, the Warriors average about 100 points per game. They averaged about half that output with Smith at the point this weekend.
"It definitely slows the game down without Ty," Smith said. "We were scoring 100 points a game, but I'm not as quick as Ty. I have a tendency to slow it down and just run something."
Louisville, Duke, Georgetown and Kansas make up the list. The Cardinals still have to be considered the frontrunner for his services, though family ties to both Duke (Smith's father played with Blue Devils assistant Johnny Dawkins in the NBA), and Kansas (Smith's father roomed with Jayhawks assistant Danny Manning on the road when both played in the NBA) can't be overlooked. And Kansas recently has picked up the pursuit.
Both Louisville (Saturday) and Kansas (Friday) sent assistants to watch Smith in Benton, Ky., over the weekend. And while most expected Smith would have committed to the Cardinals already, his college decision probably won't be made until after the season.
In the meantime, Smith said he'll likely take some unofficial visits, and, of course, continue to make his own mark on the court for the nation's top-ranked high school basketball team.
"I'm probably going to take some visits coming up to Louisville and Georgetown," Smith said.