Over the past several years, the Chapel Hill/Durham area of North Carolina has been a destination for many of the top high school players on Memorial Day weekend. The event, produced by Bob Gibbons and his co-workers, has become one of the best places for top talent to showcase their skills. Such was the case this past weekend on the campuses of North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Duke.
One of the top ten players in the 2004 class on hand at this event was Josh Smith, a 6-10 forward from McEachern High School in Powder Spring, Georgia. By now, most basketball fans that follow recruiting know quite a bit about Smith's game. He is a high-jumping athlete who can light up a crowd on any day of the week with a thundering dunk due to his springs that seem to ignite his elevation skyward. Smith is working hard to polish his perimeter game. He wants to be a more effective forward from the perimeter. Josh has improved this part of his game over the past year. And he has turned out to be a more balanced offensive player.
What most fans and media though are trying to figure out is whether Smith will play in the NBA out of high school or decide to take the safe route -- playing college basketball. "Right now I am looking at college first," Smith said. "But if I know I can be a lottery pick I am going to do that."
Now comes the interesting part with Smith -- the colleges he is most interested in. Since the Gibbons' event is so high profile, there are many media outlets from the area that take the short journey to interview such high school studs like Smith. And after each game Smith plays for the Atlanta Celtics, media members surround Josh like a New York photographer chases down Madonna along a street in Central Park. But it's not Central Park on this day. It's the floor of the Dean Dome. Smith's team had just won a pool game.
The media, many from internet sites and many others from North Carolina based newspapers, pepper Smith with questions. When asked by RivalsHoops.com his list, Smith replied: "Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Miami, LSU, Kentucky, Florida State, and Syracuse."
Smith, who averaged 22 points and 13 rebounds last season as a junior, is polite and willing to talk to each of the media members. Some media members leave the surrounding circle to chase down other players on the Atlanta Celtics such as Dwight Howard, RivalsHoops.com's number one player, and also Randolph Morris, who just had a great game. And some other media members who hadn't spoken to Smith ask the same questions about the NBA and college that he just answered.
After Al Featherston, a reporter from the Durham-Herald Sun in North Carolina, came away from the circle of reporters, he replied: "I think I got a different list from Josh Smith."
When comparing the lists of schools for Smith, Josh had also expressed interest in North Carolina and Duke. Featherston stated: "Someone asked him if he was interested in North Carolina and Duke and he said yes."
Featherston laughed. It's all part of the recruiting business. Smith seemed very much open to the idea of any school being on his list. But when reading the tea leaves, Smith may be saying he is interested in college first. However, the NBA is likely to be his sole focus this season as he prepares to make the jump from the high school level to the NBA level next June. For now, Smith will be quoted as saying the right things -- talking about how much he is interested in the top colleges across the country. But come next spring, the song will be different for sure.