Mark Smith, the four-star guard who was named Mr. Basketball for the state of Illinois, committed to the University of Illinois. Smith was a big time recruit for the Fighting Illini, while simultaneously a big blow for Michigan State, as he was one of the Spartans top two recruiting targets.
“It was a tough one,” Smith said of calling Tom Izzo to let him know he would not become a Spartan. “Tom Izzo, he’s a great guy, a great person. I built such a great relationship with him. There’s just nothing like home.”
In the end, the talented guard felt like playing near home was too much to give up by playing for the Spartans or Duke (his other top choice). While losing Smith, along with five-star center Brandon McCoy, will hurt, Sparty should be fine next year with the return of Miles Bridges.
As far as the Illini, this was a huge step forward. After finishing 9th in the Big Ten last year at 8-10, adding Smith who averaged almost 22 pts/gm and more than 8 rebounds and 8 assists per game will be a huge shot in the arm. Illinois fans finally have hope in the form of the hometown hero. Illini fans, here is the moment that might turn your program around, and get it back to the Final Four once again: