It was no secret that South Carolina pretty much led for 2010 point guard Bruce Ellington from start to finish in concerns to his recruiting, but when he became a Gamecock, some began to publicly question whether there was still a place for South Carolina's first 2010 commit Eric Smith, who also plays point guard.
So when Smith transferred from Mullins High (S.C.) to national power Christ School (N.C.), it was said that Smith was putting himself in the perfect position to be recruited by another school and that he was “running from competition.”
It has been said that the “Smith family” even confirmed the notions.
“I don’t get into these sites, but somebody e-mailed me that the Smith family was upset that they were going after (Ellington). I’m the Smith family, and I didn’t say that,” Steve Smith said. “That’s people putting something out there. Eric knew for months (that they were going after Ellington). They have six offers, that’s a lot of offers. That’s an unusually big class, but I haven’t seen a waver in the coaches.”
The Gamecock coaching staff has shown a lot of interest in Smith, letting him know that they were just as committed in him as he is to them.
“Coach (Darrin) Horn came up here last week and watched us play. He’s still real excited and still loves my game,” Eric Smith said. “He’s looking forward to seeing my games this season. He’s seen my improvement. (Assistant) coach (Mike) Boynton came up here the week before. He was excited too. He was saying to just keep getting better every day and to keep working hard and to keep practicing.
“They’re showing just as much love as they did from day one.”
According to the elder Smith, both coaches call him regularly as well, and both Smiths stated that assistant coach Cypheus Bunton has been in contact with them.
“He talks with coach Bunton regularly on the phone,” Steve Smith said this weekend. “Coaches could just start coming out last week, and he got a visit from the head coach and his assistants to go along with the phone calls.”
The addition of Ellington only makes the Gamecocks stronger, but Ellington knows the strengths of his fellow classmate as well.
“The coaches told me that they’d play us on the court at the same time,” said Ellington in an earlier story with GamecockAnthem. “I played with him at the South Carolina camp (at the same time). He’s a good player. He’s a little stronger than me, and he’s probably got a better, more consistent jump shot. But other than that, we’re alike.”
Smith is of the same accord.
“Coach Horn was saying that he’s real excited about us playing together,” he said. “We have a very similar-type game. Both of us get very physical, we like to attack, defend and push the ball.”
Horn’s philosophy was broken down to the Smiths before the 6-foot guard ever committed to the Gamecocks, so they are appalled about the notion of de-committing even being out there. As long as South Carolina continues to show that they are interested, and the Smiths are shown that Eric will have an opportunity, they are fine with the current situation.
“Coach Horn said he plays a lot of players, and that’s what he told Eric over a year ago,” Steve Smith said. “He said their style of play would require a lot of players. And as long as he’s given a fair chance to start, I feel like he can compete.
“I feel like coach Horn is a very smart guy. He’s an academic all-American. He’s going to play who he thinks is going to get him where he wants to go.”
“I know I can play. I can play with anybody,” the younger Smith said. “When I played with him at the camp, I was comfortable, and he’s comfortable with me.”
Steve Smith calls the pair “elite guards,” so he feels that South Carolina has done a good job recruiting the best players in-state. However, he’s not naïve to the whole process.
“I talk to my brother-in-law, who’s a friend of (2009 Gamecock commit) Lakeem Jackson’s family, and if you stop and break it down, South Carolina is heavily recruiting players that are in his category. So I understand.”
The move to Christ School is one that can only pay dividends for the Smiths as well.
“I’m trying to play a better schedule, and I’m playing against better guys every day in practice,” Eric Smith said. “I’m getting in better shape and getting my shot better.”
As far as the “running from the competition” theory goes...
“Someone said something about Eric running from the competition at South Carolina, but he‘s running to it at Christ School,” Steve Smith said. “South Carolina is the flagship school, and it’s a short drive. And when I look at what Coach Horn is doing, they almost made the tournament his first year. He’s doing great things, and Eric wants to be a part of that.
“Christ School plays a very heavy schedule, and he’ll get a chance to compete against the best. Eric wanted to compete.”
Eric Smith also likes the direction that Christ School is going in, and he’s happy with the step up. Steve Smith knows that he and his son made the move for the right reasons, as it was a tough decision for them to let the Mullins native leave home. Eric Smith wants to benefit himself and to prepare himself for his journey to Columbia.
Christ School has two players currently on USC’s campus — Jackson and Malik Cooke — so Steve Smith knows that the rumors are what they are at this point, rumors. If the South Carolina coaching staff’s attitude changes towards Smith, then the situation will go from there, but as of now, both sides are happy.
“There’s a faction that wants to put rumors out there, but it’s not true,” Steve Smith said. “I know I didn’t say anything, so who’s the Smith family? I haven’t seen a waver in the interest in him, and he hasn’t either.”
“I’m just satisfied with where I’m going in South Carolina,” Eric Smith said, “and I’m happy with the recruits that are coming in. I just look forward to contributing.”