Whether he becomes the next head coach at Wisconsin or not, associate head coach Greg Gard is doing his best to make sure there’s no drop off in talent in his program. It’s one of the main reasons why Des Plaines (IL) Stevenson junior small forward Justin Smith left his unofficial visit with an offer from the Badgers.
“It feels good to get an offer from there,” Smith told BadgerNation. “(The football game) was exciting. There was a lot of energy. The student section was going strong. They do a lot of things to get everybody hyped up. They all came out and represented their school pretty well.”
The 6-7, 195-pound Smith didn’t go into the visit thinking he would leave with a Wisconsin offer. He had visited the campus once for the a team camp two years ago and just knew that Gard had interest in him.
“We’ve been talking off and on since the first time he was able to contact me in the summer,” said Smith. “He seems like a pretty good guy, a good coach. He talked to me a lot about how he develops players. They developed Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes into All-Americans. That was his main selling point.”
Ranked an early three-star prospect, Smith is ranked the No.22 small forward in the county by Scout.com. The Badgers join DePaul, Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern, Purdue, Rice and Wake Forest as schools that have offered, many of which had staffs first notice him when they scouted Jalen Brunson.
A five-star point guard in the 2015 class, Brunson was a McDonald’s All-American and signed with Villanova. His last act in high school was leading his team to a state title.
“He taught me how to be a leader,” said Smith. “Jalen was a very good leader on our team and kept everybody together and close in tough times. He knew how to win. Ever since he started playing high school basketball, he’s won and got better and better each year. No matter if it was an ugly game, he would find a way to win.”
Smith doesn’t have any visits scheduled before the start of basketball season. He plans to take more visits when basketball season starts, possibly one to Madison.
“Whatever they choose to do, whether Bo Ryan stays, Coach Gard takes over or they hire somebody from the outside, I believe the right people will make the right decision,” said Smith, who said the coaching uncertainty never came up. “I would have to talk to the new coach if they would hire outside, but I would be totally OK if Coach Ryan stayed or it was Coach Gard.”