Smith has 'Deron Williams potential'

Smith has 'Deron Williams potential'

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Greg Shashack has seen some of the best Edwardsville boys’ basketball players in the last three-plus decades.

Covered them, too, and gotten to know them on a personal level since the 1980 Edwardsville graduate has worked at the Alton Telegraph newspaper since 1988, where he’s now the assistant sports editor.

Past Tigers coached by Mike Waldo — this writer not among them — have gone on to play Division I athletics, like Jon Harris (Marquette basketball), Jimmie Dougherty (Missouri football) and Chico Brown (Illinois football), among others.

Shashack has seen them all and written about them all.

But now, the past Tiger standouts all take a backseat to guard Mark Smith, the current Mr. Basketball recipient who, needless to say, will find his way onto The News-Gazette’s 85th annual All-State team, which will be unveiled in Sunday’s paper.

“Before this season, I probably did not think Mark could crack the top 10,” Shashack said about former Edwardsville greats he’s covered. “Now, Mark’s No. 1, without a doubt.”

The school that sits 20 minutes east of downtown St. Louis plays its home games in Lucco-Jackson Gym (yes, that’s in honor of former Illini and 1957 Edwardsville graduate Mannie Jackson) which has seen a plethora of college coaches stop by this school year, all in an effort to woo Smith.

The Illinois recruiting target is still the state’s top uncommitted senior.

The trajectory of Smith’s recruitment is unlike almost anything Shashack has seen in his lengthy career covering sports.

“My daughter plays volleyball at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, and we were at Wright State for a tournament in August when Mark and his parents were there for a visit,” Shashack said. “At that time, it was an attractive option for Mark.”

Smith averaged 21.9 points, 8.4 assists, 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 steals this past season for Edwardsville, which finished 30-2 and lost to Chicago Simeon in a Class 4A super-sectional game.

“He was always big and strong, but that hint of baby fat he had as a junior is gone,” Shashack said. “He’s got a sculpted Big Ten-ready body, and he’s faster and more explosive to the rim. He can shoot the three and take defenders off the dribble to the basket.”

Shashack is playing the waiting game, like everyone else, when it comes to Smith’s college choice, but he believes Smith’s future is bright no matter what school he picks.

“I see Deron Williams potential,” Shashack said, “but I’m certainly not the best judge of talent. I thought Malcolm Hill coming out of Belleville East would struggle to contribute at Illinois, and we know how that projection turned out.”

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Moonpie wrote on March 31, 2017 at 11:03 am

And if this kid shuns the Illini, soon we'll get an Ancient Tate Cheerleader column explaining that we really can't know if the kid is any good etc. And if he chooses Illinois, he's the greatest thing since sliced bread.

lgrunner34 wrote on March 31, 2017 at 2:03 pm

Regardless of the outcome on Smith I'm sure Loren Tate and the rest of Illini nation have the same opinion of you Moonpie, one of embarrassment and regret that you have not been booted from this site yet.

JamesB wrote on March 31, 2017 at 6:03 pm

My dear Moonpie, everybody knows what you think of the The News Gazette reporting, and nobody cares.  Won't you please stop commenting?  It is so tiresome.

cowpie needs a hobby wrote on April 01, 2017 at 8:04 pm

and tate deragement syndrome shows its useless, uninformed, ugly head in an article not even written by tate. the plague is spreading. hooray for the rest of us.