J.R. Smith favors Cards
With a top five national ranking, a 17 game winning streak, and an undefeated record on ESPN this season, the Cards recruiting fortunes are looking quite good these days. Not only are the Cards the talk of the nation but they're probably the most exciting team in college basketball. And don't think the top recruits aren't paying attention.
In mid December, Coach Pitino, staff and players attended a high school game in Newark, NJ the night before they were to play an ESPN game against Seton Hall. The high school was St. Benedict's, coached by Danny Hurley, brother of the former Duke star and youngest son to legendary high school coach Bob, Sr.
And the player that drew the Cardinals attention? None other than J.R. Smith, a talented and explosive junior wing and perhaps the heir apparent to current UofL star guard Reece Gaines.
Smith, a 6'6 forward/guard from Newark St. Benedict's told Chris Baldwin of the Asbury Park Press at the Prime Time Shootout last weekend in Trenton, NJ that the University of Louisville is his top choice ahead of Florida, Pittsburgh and North Carolina.
"You look at what a coach like Rick Pitino's done and it makes you want to follow him," Smith, a near consensus top 20 prospect, told Baldwin. "Pitino sends guys to the NBA and that's where I want to be. Look at how he helped Reece Gaines, a big guard like me."
Smith, who averaged 25.6 points per game last season at Lakewood High and nailed more than 100 three pointers is an explosive scorer and an excellent outside shooter. Smith had a great spring and summer playing for the Tim Thomas Playaz and drew rave reviews at last summer's Adidas ABCD Camp enhancing his national reputation as one of the top players in the junior class.
"Smith has range, superior athleticism and is a big finisher," said Dave Telep, TheInsiders National Recruiting Analyst.
This season, Smith led St. Benedicts to the Slam Dunk to the Beach title in Deleware, scoring 13 points in the championship game to defeat Archbishop Shaw.
A week after their Slam Dunk title, Smith was named MVP of the Great Florida Shootout and scored a season high 30 points against Heritage Christian.
Smith, who transferred to St. Benedict's prior to the season from Lakewood High has not taken the SAT yet but is taking the SAT prep class at St. Benedicts. Smith would have been a senior this season at Lakewood but his transfer to St. Benedict reclassified him as a junior and gave him two years to qualify for collegiate eligibility.
"If he does what he's supposed to do over the next two years he should be fine," Hurley said recently of Smith's potential of qualifying.
Another factor in the Cards favor is Smith's friendship with current Cardinal freshman, Taquan Dean.
Were the Cards to land Smith he would bring an added dimension of explosiveness to the perimeter arsenal that would also include Dean, Francisco Garcia, Brandon Jenkins and Nate Daniels. That surely would be one of the top perimeter quintets in the college game in 2005.
We'll have more on J.R. Smith's recruitment right here at ITV.