Derrick Rose. Jabari Parker. Jalen Brunson. Charlie Moore. And now, Mark Smith. The Edwardsville senior guard joined an illustrious group Monday morning when he was named the Gatorade Illinois boys basketball Player of Year.
"It was such a great honor," Smith said. "I’m blessed to be up there with so many great players and to receive an honor like that."
It’s an honor that not only recognizes his talents on the court, where he averaged 22 points per game for the Tigers this season, but his academic excellence off it. He's maintained a 3.24 GPA.
"You know I’m fortunate enough to have great parents who have been through college and both were athletes," added Smith. "They stayed on me just for this point. I’m glad I have good grades and it just shows that I’m smart on and off the court."
With more than a dozen Division I offers, Smith has yet to make a decision. He's one of the top unsigned players in the Midwest which means Cuonzo Martin and Brad Underwood didn't waste any time getting in contact with him.
"I talked to Cuonzo later that night. The day after he got hired," said Smith. "Then I talked to coach Underwood later that night on Saturday."
Smith said that Mizzou and Illinois are among his favorites, but he still wants to visit Butler, Kansas State and Alabama before deciding. A decision that could come as late as April 12.
"A lot of schools are very patient with me," said Smith. "They want me to take my time on my decision. I’m just really trying to make the best decision for myself because it’s a big step for my future."