No one knew what direction Indiana would go with much of anything when it was announced on March 15 that the school decided to part ways with Archie Miller.
But for a handful of top in-state class of 2022 talents, it quickly became clear that irrespective of what happened, they were viewed as a priority by the transition team of Mike Roberts, Kenya Hunter and various administrative staff.
For Westfield, Ind. point guard Braden Smith, that meant periodic conversations turned into daily contact. And with IU seemingly distracted by a regime change, that meant a lot to the Indiana junior All-Star.
“It meant a lot really, just showing that they still cared and put in the effort to recruit me still,” Smith told The Daily Hoosier.
Sources tell The Daily Hoosier that the remaining IU staff focused in on Smith, Gary’s Jalen Washington, and verbal commit C.J. Gunn when it came to the in-state class of 2022. Smith had already been hearing from IU for over a year. He came to Indiana for a game in February of 2020, and the Hoosiers have been recruiting him since.
For the 2020-21 season, Smith averaged 22 points, 6.2 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.7 turnovers per contest while playing in what is likely the second best conference in the state of Indiana. He shot 55 percent from the field overall including 45 percent from behind the arc on 153 attempts (6.7 per game). Smith also made 83 percent of his free throws.
Smith led Westfield to an 18-5 record. The Shamrocks fell in the state tournament to eventual champion Carmel. Individually, Smith was the first Westfield player to ever be named an Indiana All-Star. He’s focused on team goals for his senior season.
“The goal is the same next year, get back to the Sectional championship, and win it this time,” Smith said.
Since Mike Woodson was hired, Smith has continued to hear from IU on a regular basis, and more than was the case under Miller. But still, the Hoosiers and other high major programs have yet to offer the 6-foot point guard.
Montana, Toledo, Appalachian State, Belmont and IUPUI are the schools who have offered thus far as Smith enters a critical spring and summer period that should include better competition than the summer of 2020 and some live evaluation beginning in June.
In addition to IU, Smith has heard from multiple high majors including national runner-up Gonzaga along with Villanova and Oregon.
Whatever path his college basketball career goes, hearing from programs of the caliber just adds more fuel to the fire for Smith.
“It just shows that all of my hard work is showing,” he said. “That’s what I work for every day, and to see those schools come in and contact me, that’s awesome.”
Early in the spring, Smith seems right on the line between a mid and high major prospect, with an opportunity to break through over the next few months. Now a legit 6-foot, the questions about his size have mostly dissipated, and he has made clear strides athletically with the ability to get past defenders with a quick burst and even make plays at or above the rim on occasion.
Smith knows he has an important spring and summer ahead of him playing for the Grand Park Premiere AAU program, and he is focused on continuing to improve to make sure it all goes down the way he wants it to. Already regarded as a highly skilled player, and especially an elite passer with exceptional vision, Smith wants to prove that he can consistently score the ball against top competition.
“I’m focused on being more of a consistent shooter, and working on my floater game and my inside game,” he said. “Other than that, just try to put on some weight, and get to maybe 185 by next year.”
To see Smith’s junior season highlights, GO HERE.
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