By ADAM ZAGORIA & DENNIS CHAMBERS New Illinois coach Brad Underwood scored a major coup on Wednesday by landing Class of 2017 combo guard Mark Smith of Edwardsville (IL) High School.
“Of course through the recruiting process, there is one school that stood out,” Smith said at his announcement. “Let me take one of the best college programs back to the top again.” The 6-foot-5 guard visited Ohio State officially last weekend and also visited Illinois unofficially. Smith had a home visit with Duke this past week and had also been recruited by Michigan State and Kentucky. Smith is ranked the No. 17 point guard in the Class of 2017 by 247Sports.com. He averaged 21.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 8.4 assists last season. He figures to be a key building block going forward for Underwood, who takes over his third program in three years after leaving Stephen F. Austin for a one-year stint at Oklahoma State, which he led to the NCAA Tournament. “We’re very blessed,” Underwood, speaking generally on Illinois recruiting, said on The 4 Quarters Podcast. “We’re located in a state that has tremendous high school players. Beyond that we hae tremendous high school coaches and we’ve got great AAU programs that have produced No. 1 draft picks, a state that produces tens to hundreds of Division 1 players every year. “So obviously taking care of the home base is very important to us, and we’re continuing to build those relationships and make those relationships. “I think we’ve got a style of play that is gonna be appealing. We play up-tempo, we play fast. We averaged about 86 a game at Oklahoma State last year. We had the No. 1 offense in the country in terms of offensive efficiency. We do it in a way that’s fun and I think it’s exciting for our fans, I think it’s exciting for players to want to be a part of. And we’ll continue to recruit that way and build this thing through in-state kids.”