Justin Smith, a four-star power forward from Lincolnshire, Ill. (Adlai Stevenson), committed to Indiana on Monday night. He became the Hoosiers’ second 2017 commitment and he’s without a doubt a player who will create some hype among IU basketball faithful.
Smith, who checks in at 6-foot-7 and 185 pounds, is ranked as the No. 17 power forward nationally and the No. 4 recruit from the state of Illinois, which is a college hoops hotbed.
To put that in context, consider that the No. 1 recruit from Illinois is five-star center Jeremiah Tilmon, an Illini commit. The No. 2 recruit is four-star shooting guard Jordan Goodwin (committed to St. Louis University) and the No. 3 recruit is four-star small forward Nojel Eastern, who has offers from the likes of Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Xavier, Kansas and Iowa State among others.
Smith is among great company just in his own state.
That’s not even mentioning the fact that he’s ranked as the No. 69 overall recruit in America, according to 247Sports. Notable commitments in his ranking range include four-star Washington shooting guard commit Jaylen Nowell (No. 65), four-star Xavier small forward commit Naji Marshall (No. 67) and four-star Miami point guard commitment Chris Lykes (No. 74).
Again, Smith is among great company.
“I am humbled by the opportunities I was given to play for many great schools,” Smith said on his Twitter account, announcing his commitment to Indiana. “I am honored to have met great coaching staffs and people throughout this process. I am grateful for my teachers, coaches and parents, who have helped me develop as a student athlete. And I am thrilled to announce that I will continue my education and play basketball at Indiana University.”
Smith is right about one thing: He did have some great opportunities from a handful of notable college basketball schools. Indiana obviously has a national profile and a ton of tradition, but he also had offers from Villanova — the defending national champions — Florida State, Illinois, Iowa Sate, Northwestern, Rice, Stanford, Wake Forest, Wisconsin and Xavier. Schools such as DePaul, Michigan and Virginia were also on his interest list.
With the addition of Smith, IU basketball’s 2017 class now ranks No. 32 nationally and No. 6 in the Big Ten. Smith joins 6-foot-4, 175 pound three-star point guard Alkami Durham, who committed to the Hoosiers on Oct. 26, 2015. Durham is from Lilburn, Ga. (Berkmar).
“Smith is someone who will bring a multitude of things to Indiana, which is perfect for what Tom Crean has tried to do in the last few years, with multidimensional players,” ESPN recruiting insider Jeff Borzello said via Zach Osterman of the Indy Star. “He can play either forward position, and is a versatile defender.
Versatility has become a sought-after trait in recruits, as college basketball continues to trend toward athleticism at all five positions on the floor. One look at Smith’s highlights shows plenty of both (versatility and athleticism).
He’s long, lanky and is a mismatch waiting to happen for Tom Crean and the Hoosiers. They can match him up against shorter guards on the perimeter and let him go to work. If a defender presses him, he has the dribble and drive ability to get to the rim, and he finishes strong in traffic. His outside shot has to be respected, because he can rise up and hit a three-pointer if a defender gives him too much room.
Smith does have the size to get down low into the block and paint area as well. He’s not necessary a bruiser, though it’s worth noting that he can definitely add muscle mass between now and his first game with the Hoosiers.
He does have the arm-length, jumping ability and footwork to be effective down low, though. He’ll be a tough off-ball defender who can block a few shots. If defenses crash on his teammates on the other side of the floor, he does a good job of getting open and driving to the rim for easy looks.
Speaking of the rim, though Smith isn’t the most physically imposing player, he sure knows how to throw it down with authority when going up for a dunk. Especially in the transition game, he should create a ton of highlights for the Hoosiers.
Overall, there’s a lot to be excited about for fans of Indiana basketball. Smith’s future with the Hoosiers looks to be very bright.