Former Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year and Illini basketball guard Mark Smith announced his commitment to Missouri Saturday night.
It’s official!! pic.twitter.com/jo2PxaRaRl
— MARK SMITH (@Mark_Smith_13) April 15, 2018
The 6’4 guard will have to sit out a year before becoming eligible due to the NCAA transfer rules, but it’s yet another home run pickup for Cuonzo Martin and his staff.
Smith was a player initially on Missouri’s radar before his commitment to Illinois, but the additions of Blake Harris and C.J. Roberts contributed to Smith choosing Illinois.
The Fighting Illini had a mediocre 2017-18 season, despite defeating Missouri in the annual Braggin’ Rights game in December 70-64.
Smith contributed 11 points and two steals in the victory for Illinois.
Illinois struggled the remainder of the season finishing 14-18, 11th in the Big Ten and missed The NCAA tournament.
Smith decided to transfer at the end of the season and felt Missouri was the best fit. With Roberts and Harris transferring and point guard Terrence Phillip’s dismissal, it opened up multiple spots for guards looking for regular playing time.
Michael Porter Jr. and Jontay Porter will each enter the NBA draft, which frees up scholarships allowing for Martin to pursue options to fill the guard vacancies.
With the commitment of Smith it’s generated a lot of questions about Missouri’s status in the Courtney Ramey sweepstakes.
Ramey, a top guard in the St. Louis area and nationally ranked has had Martin’s interest for quite some time. Like Smith, Ramey hadn’t shown much interest until the Tigers coaching staff started aggressively pursuing the Webster Groves standout for their open guard vacancy.
Ramey, once committed to the University of Louisville, backed out of that commitment when Louisville terminated head coach Rick Pitino on suspicion of illegal recruiting violations.
Ramey is the top player in the state of Missouri for the 2018 class and has mutual interest with Villanova, Texas, Missouri, Illinois and Oklahoma State.
According to 247sports.com, Ramey’s crystal ball prediction favors Villanova at 45 percent, but Missouri’s stock is rising and now sits at 36 percent.
He would fit in nicely at Missouri alongside Torrence Watson, Missouri’s 2018 Gatorade Player of the Year. Watson has recruited hard for Ramey via his social media accounts and the two would combine for one of the best back courts in the SEC.
There are questions though, on what Smith’s commitment means for the possibility of Ramey wearing black and gold in 2018.
The short answer is it doesn’t help.
The good news regarding the Ramey sweepstakes is that Smith has to sit out for a year. If Ramey goes one and done, the Smith commitment doesn’t matter as much.
Though there are also rumors the two don’t want to play together, but as Rock M Nation’s Sam Snelling notes, it’s up to Martin to iron out those issues.
Missouri is still going to pursue Ramey for its open point guard vacancy, even if the addition of Smith hurts that possibility.
The big takeaway to note is that even with the Porter’s jumping to the NBA early, Martin hasn’t lost a step on the recruiting trail.
Smith spoke to KSDK sports director Frank Cusumano, who had some good things to say about Belleville West junior and 2019 Missouri target E.J. Lidell, who by the way was the 2018 Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year.
“I talk to E.J. all the time, so I think that could be a strong possibility…”@Mark_Smith_13 also dished on his relationship with fellow metro east star turned #Mizzou Tiger Jeremiah Tilmon, and the possibility of teaming up with good friend and high school phenom E.J. Liddell pic.twitter.com/ExtO0utFmn
— Corey Miller (@corey_miller5) April 15, 2018
Nick Yahl serves as the managing editor and covers the Missouri Tigers for 590 The Fan. You can e-mail feedback to email@example.com or on Twitter @NickYahl