CHAMPAIGN — Mark Smith doesn’t have nearly as long to wait for his first game at Missouri than he might have initially expected.
The 2017 Illinois Mr. Basketball, News-Gazette All-State Player of the Year and former Illinois guard received immediate eligibility one week ago today after his waiver to wipe out his sit-out season was approved by the NCAA.
Instead of waiting until after the 2019-20 season, Smith will suit up Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena when the Tigers face Central Arkansas in their season opener.
Illinois, including coach Brad Underwood, supported Missouri’s waiver claim for Smith.
"I want them to be a part of something we want to be about," Underwood said Thursday about players who opt to transfer. ... "If they’re not that, I’ve got no problem. Everybody’s got a differing opinion on that. I wish Mark the best and hope he’s successful in his career and don’t hold anything against any athlete or anybody in those cases. I’m glad for him."
The Illini lost four players to transfers following the 2017-18 season.
Underwood didn’t go as far as saying he supported a one-time, penalty-free transfer across the board, noting that "every situation is different."
Illinois was in a similar situation as Smith last season trying to get a waiver for Tyler Underwood after he transferred from Oklahoma State to continue playing for his dad. That particular waiver was denied.
"We appealed last year on Tyler’s case and didn’t win," Underwood said. "I think every scenario is different and every situation is different."