Illinois still has moves to make with a pair of open scholarships for the 2017-18 season, and Illini coach John Groce took a possible step toward filling one of those when he offered Edwardsville's Mark Smith on Sunday after watching the Class of 2017 guard play in the Collinsville Holiday Classic earlier last week.
Smith is the new kid on the basketball recruiting scene, having been a Missouri baseball commit this time a year ago. So it's safe to say the Illini fan base has had a particular interest in the 6-foot-4 combo guard, both before his offer and now that he's an option to fill out the 2017 class.
Here's a sampling from today's Illinois basketball chat where Smith was certainly a topic of interest. One reader, Gregg G, wanted to know how Smith and Belleville Althoff guard (a one-time priority target for Illinois) compare.
From our beat writer ...
I found it difficult to watch Mark Smith and not compare him to Jordan Goodwin since body type and skill set are pretty similar. Smith is the better shooter/passer, while Goodwin is a better rebounder/defender. Both attack the rim like crazy.
The big question is how Smith's skills translate to a higher level. Goodwin proved his abilities two summers in a row on the Nike EYBL circuit. Smith hasn't, although he's beaten Goodwin twice this year and probably outplayed Goodwin twice. Suffice it to say, I'm intrigued by Smith.
Smith being a baseball commit at this time a year ago put him firmly under the radar as far as basketball rankings go. The Class of 2017 rankings will be adjusted at the end of this season. I will be surprised if Smith doesn't end up in somebody's Top 100. Maybe not every Top 100, but one of them.