2017-2018 Player Profile: Justin Smith

  • 10/16/2017 10:48 am in

With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ve transitioned from our look at other Big Ten programs to our player-by-player previews of the 2017-18 Indiana roster. Today, our profiles begin with a look at Justin Smith.

Adlai Stevenson (Ill.) product Justin Smith is Indiana’s highest ranked incoming player and the athletic, high flying forward should challenge for a rotation spot immediately in Bloomington.

The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 21.7 points and 10 rebounds as a senior at Stevenson and was named second team All-State in Class 4A by the Associated Press.

Smith was one of the first major recruiting wins for Archie Miller and the new Indiana coaching staff. After Tom Crean was dismissed in March, Miller and his staff made it a priority to keep the talented wing in the fold.

It didn’t take long for Smith to decide that he wanted to stick with his commitment.

“Archie Miller looked each of us in the eye and he didn’t sugarcoat anything,” Smith’s father, Edward, told Inside the Hall in April. “He said it’s going to be tough, it’s going to be hard, but with hard work, the rewards will be there. And he said it with conviction and honesty. That’s what you look for in a guy. And he’s prepared. My gosh is he prepared.”

As is the case with most freshmen, it may take some time for Smith to adjust to the college game, particularly in the Big Ten.

But from a strength and conditioning standpoint, he appears to be ahead of most of his peers and doesn’t look like a typical 18-year old.

“(Smith) won’t be the normal freshman that’s kind of too skinny and too weak,” Patrick Ambrose, the head coach at Adlai Stevenson, told Inside the Hall in early September. “Not that he’ll be Caleb Swanigan and throwing people around, but he’s not going to come in as a weakling. He is a strong, strong high school graduate. I think he’s got a real bright future at Indiana.”

Smith topped Indiana’s max vertical testing in July with a 42.5-inch leap and as a senior at Adlai Stevenson, he threw down 75 dunks.

In his final year on Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) circuit, Smith averaged 9.4 points on 47 percent shooting on 2s and 19 percent shooting on 3s. At Indiana’s media day last month, he acknowledged that working on his perimeter shot has been a major focus since arriving on campus in June.

“Right when I came in, we started working on it,” Smith explained. “We kind of made some tweaks. I’m working on it every day after practice, before practice, just trying to get it to where it needs to be for when the season starts.”

As for the speed of the college game, Smith said it didn’t take long to get acclimated after a brief adjustment period.

“You have to really be paying attention, especially during drills and stuff like that,” he said. “So I mean, the speed was quite an adjustment, but after a couple weeks, you kind of get used to it.”

Bottom Line: Smith is already Big Ten ready from an athleticism standpoint, but he’ll need to prove himself capable of hitting perimeter shots to keep defenses honest. He’s a tremendous finisher at the rim and in transition and should provide energy off the bench as a freshman. Defensively, he has the tools to succeed in Miller’s pack-line defense and is an unselfish player who should quickly grow into a fan favorite.

Quotable: “Justin Smith, from Illinois, is probably the guy I’ve seen the most. Probably comes in as an elite athlete, talent. About 6-foot-6. Can really play above the rim. Oozes with potential. I think the one thing is to redefine him, is to figure out how he impacts the game shooting the ball and doing some things as a freshman. From a talent perspective, he’s one of the more talented guys entering the league.” – Miller on Justin Smith in June.

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  • Outoftheloop

    Justin should receive immediate minutes for IU. I think that his great athleticism, strength, and competitive instincts will make him hard to keep off of the floor. If he really works on Archie’s defense and upgrades his shooting %, he will be a great freshman story for IU!

  • Koko

    I’d love to see a couple great freshmen this season….maybe like OG & JM.
    Maybe Jason will surprise us all and be like another freshman sensation….Miles Bridges. Yes I know I’m probably not being serious enough with all of the proper stats etc telling me why we won’t have an OG/JM and why Jason just doesn’t have what it takes to be a Miles Bridges….but hey a guy dream a little can’t he?

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    JS should get playing time right away and should be a starter next season. go hoosiers!!

  • Zach

    Who’s Jason…?

  • sd chuck

    Seems like a truly good kid! Have to give Crean and Martin credit, imo, he was under valued in high school because he wasn’t recruited heavy by Duke, ky, nc. That being said, I think his ranking was about 78, if he would have had big time pursuit by ky, he might have been rated in the 30’s. When I watched his highlight tape I thought, is there really 75 kid better than him? Decent handles, finishes right or left, through contact, rebounds well. he could be a special player!

  • Koko

    Sorry I meant Justin.

  • StudentHoosier

    Funny story about JS:

    I actually have a cousin who played ball for Lake Zurich (big rival of Stevenson). Went up there to years ago (JS was a junior) to watch the big game and man, JS was something special. I remember thinking, this guy NEEDS to be a Hoosier.

    It was at Stevenson, and that whole crowd was going crazy over him every time he touched the ball. Justin took the ball up the court, took about one step past the half court line and drained a Jimmer esque three. He started celebrating, as any 17 year old kid would, and Lake Zurich threw a quick inbound pass to a guy who was still on the other end for an easy basket. He caught it at about the free throw line while JS was still pumping his fist on the other half. JS saw what was going on, and SPRINTED down and somehow chased the guy down and swatted the ball four rows into the section behind the basket! I literally could not believe my eyes. The guy is a freak. Let’s do this.

    Is it November yet?

  • John D Murphy

    I’m sure CH will be on a minutes limit early. I’d rather see JS get the minutes than to go three guards.

  • TomJameson

    Great story. Hope JS learned a lesson about celebrating after a basket. 🙂

  • marcusgresham

    I know the plus/minus of Tom Crean’s contributions have been discussed ad nauseum, but the one thing I think that was maybe as good as anyone is what he and his assistants did with making guys competent shooters.
    I hope that continues with Archie Miller’s staff. I’m confident in the defense, the preparation, in-game adjustments, and the general style of play all being as good or better, but man it’s sure going to be difficult to match the progression of the shooters.

  • Ole Man

    Won’t be that hard at all.
    Fundamentals are fundamentals when it comes to shooting.
    And I’m really not sure who you’re talking about that Crean developed into a shooter who wasn’t one already. (No slight to Crean.)


    Could not agree more.

  • pcantidote

    I don’t know if Crean deserves the credit, but Oladipo couldn’t hit a 3 to save his life in his first two years.

  • VOXAC30

    Will CH start or will he be saved for the more critical times during games? I guess I’m thinking out loud because of his history. This will gave more time for Justin and Freddie.

  • iugradmark

    Agree. Our schedule means playing a lot of people early and I think Justin will get his chances. One thing he can bring to this squad is a player with the athleticism to get his own shot when needed. Newkirk, Justin, and Devonte seem to be candidates to help us generate some offense when sets are not working or we are at the end of a shot clock.

  • Miamihoosier

    Verdell Jones Christian watford victor oladipo Troy Williams etc etc that’s one of the most inaccurate things you’ve ever posted on here Ole Man….”fundamentals are fundamentals” no….sorry, it’s not that simple. Marcus is right, Crean developed shooting with the best of them. I suppose Max Beilfeldt came to IU and learned how to shoot 3s for the first time in his career, bc they didn’t teach “fundamentals” at Michigan huh? But isn’t Michigan’s offense predicated on 3 point shooting? Hahahaha

  • Ivan Renko

    indeed. 31%, 21%, then skyrocketed to 44%. gotta imagine A LOT of hard work and countless hours VO put into his 3 point shot between his soph and junior year. and you have to assume coaching staff working really closely with him as well

  • Ole Man

    Crean taught shooting fundamentals. He corrected flaws. Do you think that our former PG Coach isn’t going to each shooting fundamentals? Do you think he isn’t going to correct flaws?

    I responded to MG’s thought that it would be tough to match the “progression of shooters.” That’s total BS.
    I even said “no slight to Crean.” But I’ll put Archie’s understanding of shooting up against Crean’s any day of the week.

    As far as Max, he was never utilized as part of their 3-point offense. Your “Hahahaha” in light of that obvious fact is really stupid.

  • Ole Man

    But I stand by my statement.
    Archie, as a former guard will turn out to be as good a shooting coach as Crean. In fact, I can’t remember the coach’s name, but it wasn’t Crean, but someone on his staff who was called “the shot Doctor.”

  • Ivan Renko

    i think it was a very fair statement. players like JBJ come in and only need to maintain their shot, but others come a looong way under the proper coaching and strong work ethic as evidenced by VO and others under the TC era that emphasized 3-pt shots. 2012/2013 had 4 players averaging 44/45% on 3s I believe, what a year haha.

    i believe the shot doctor was Steve McClain? not sure though.

  • Outoftheloop

    Verdell, ok shooter as a freshman, did get better. Christian Watford, ok shooter as a freshman, did get better. Victor O, poor shooter as freshman, became good, your best example. Troy streaky shooter as a freshman, did get better. Max never allowed to shoot 3’s at MI.

  • Miamihoosier

    Sorry that is also inaccurate. Morris Wagner was universally considered a “utilized” 3 point shooter last year. He avg 1.2 attempts per game. By contrast Max avg 1.0 per game as a Jr at 24% fg pct. Had he shot an effective percentage it is silly to think he would not have had more attempts in the Michigan system. We are comparing the Crean staff to the Archie staff. The Crean staff was known for their development of shooters. Max was quoted speaking to this his senior year with us. TV analysts have recognized it during broadcasts. We all agree Archie is Crean’s superior in many categories,I hope he is as good at developing shooters. I’m sorry, but for you to insinuate that it is as easy as teaching fundamentals is “haha” funny/silly…or in your words stupid. The term shot doctor exists for a reason sir

  • Jay Skibbe


  • Ole Man

    Crean wasn’t known as the “shot Dr.” It was someone else on his staff.
    As you noted, Max wasn’t utilized in the MI offense as a 3 point shooter.
    Edit: Others below have identified the staff member as Buckley.