When New Jersey swingman Wellington Smith was considering his college options as a high school senior, he admits that he was hoping to get more attention from a traditional basketball conference.

"I wanted to get some more looks from the ACC," Smith said when asked about the reason he postponed his college career for a year to attend prestigious Blair Academy in New Jersey. "That was one of the main reasons. Schools like Georgia Tech and Wake Forest were recruiting me, but then they told me I would have to redshirt for a year, and I did not want to do that."

The obvious choice was prep school, where Smith hoped to influence the Yellow Jackets, Demon Deacons and some other schools with a postgraduate year that would help him avoid sitting out for a season. However, before his prep school year even began, one of the schools that had been recruiting him the longest rose back to the top.

"It became apparent that Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest weren't going to be a good fit for me," said Smith, whose replies show a maturity level far beyond most people just out of high school. "I really didn't know what I was looking for, but I realized that Coach Beilein was the person who is going to make me a star. I thought about going to other schools, but West Virginia is a really good program, and I just fit in better there.

"It made a big difference that West Virginia was one of the first schools to recruit me, and that they stayed with me the whole way. They started recruiting me when I was a junior," Smith continued. "Virginia came in late in the recruiting process, and it came down to those two schools, but on my visit to West Virginia, I just had a great time. They were very supportive, and I felt at home there. Driving home with my parents, I decided I really liked it and it would be a great place to go. It's a great fit for me."

While it might seem that Smith's decision to attend prep school is a wasted one (he likely would not have redshirted at WVU had he signed with the Mountaineers this past spring), that's not the way the forward-thinking scorer views it.

"Going to prep school, I can play against good competition and not have to sit this year. I think it is the best thing for me. In my few weeks here [at Blair] I've learned a lot. I've picked up my intensity, and learned more about how to play and how to defend. I'm also learning how to study. I've never had this much homework before, but it should help me prepare for college, and even though I have decision behind me, I'm not going to stop being academically sound.

"My parents paid a lot of money for me to go there, and I'm not going to waste their money and my time. My mom and dad are both hard workers. We all strive to succeed in our lives, and if basketball doesn't work out then I will always have academics there for me."

If nothing else, Smith certainly has the maturity and academic aspects of his life in order. Speaking with him is like talking to a college senior, or perhaps even a seasoned professional. He listens to questions, gives thought before responding, and is without a doubt one of the most mature players, at this point in his career, that BlueGoldNews.com has ever talked with.

Those factors will certainly help him when he comes to West Virginia next fall, but in the meantime he's not going to rest on his laurels, or treat his year at Blair as an extended vacation.

"We've started preseason workouts and conditioning, and that has gotten me in so much better shape than I ever was," Smith said. "I want to be a better all-around player this year. I want to improve my rebounding, my defense and my scoring. I want to be better conditioned, get faster and jump higher. I'm going to use this year to improve every way I can."

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