Mark Smith Prepared to be the Face of Illini Basketball Renaissance

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mark smith illini basketball

From 2002-2006, Illini basketball led the nation in total wins, highlighted by a 37-2 (then tying the single season victories record) national runner-up campaign in 2005. In the 12 years since, Illinois has a total of just three NCAA Tournament victories, and they’ve broken the school record for single season losses not once but twice.

However, it’s a new era of Illini basketball now, as this team welcomes a new head coach in Brad Underwood, a new staff and six new players. Underwood has a track record that indicates he could be the man who turns the program’s fortunes around. If that is the case, there will be an individual player that people in the future will look back upon as a turning point recruit.

That player could be Mark Smith, freshman guard from Edwardsville, Illinois. He’s the first Mr. Basketball in the state of Illinois to stay home and sign with the Land of Lincoln’s flagship university since 2010 (Jereme Richmond). Let’s hope for the sake of everyone involved that Smith’s career, and life after college basketball, works out better than Richmond’s did.

Mark Smith is a four-star prospect is now ranked No. 52 by Rivals, No. 74 by 247 Sports Composite and No. 76 by Scout in the top 100 for the Class of 2017.

Smith chose Illinois over Michigan State, Northwestern and Kentucky, and the sport of basketball over baseball.

“Mark Smith’s commitment at that time and moment was huge,” Underwood said at Illini basketball Media Day yesterday. 

mark smith

“He’s a man that fits the bill for the University of Illinois. Smith has tremendous pride, wants this university to be great. Not afraid to be the face of doing that.”

Obviously, expectations are sky high right now for this guy, but remember he’s still a true freshman. He’ll need time to grow and develop.

“Mark Smith will do some things that make you say ‘wow’ in a negative way, but then he’ll never do it again,” Underwood added. 

You can hear much more from Underwood at Illini basketball media day in the video below. Smith comes up around the 13-16 mark, and again just before the 18 mark.

Underwood said we’ll see position-less basketball this season, and that Smith could play any position on the floor.

“You guys gotta understand- I don’t care about lineups, I care about good players on the court,” Underwood said. 

“Mark Smith is special, he’s going going to be a matchup nightmare for opponents can play several positions. There’s not one thing I’m going to limit Mark to. Mark Smith will play point, wing and post up. Look at things I did with Thomas Walkup.”

Underwood added that Smith has now concentrated on one sport, in great shape at 216 pounds and mentally he is growing all the time.

For Illini basketball media day availability with Mark Smith listen below:

Illini basketball newcomer/individual player season preview series

Mark Smith

Mark Alstork

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

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