Basil Smotherman gets it. Check that. He sounds like he gets it, and that's half the battle.
The other half is proving it on the basketball court. He'll get the chance via Purdue and coach Matt Painter in about 18 months.
“The key for me is defense,” the Indianapolis Lawrence North junior standout says. “(Purdue) always plays defense. I want to be one of the best defensive players.”
Defense has helped propel Purdue to six straight NCAA tourney appearances, although that defense slipped last season, which is why Painter has told returning players it needs to be an off-season point of emphasis. He says playing time will be based in large measure on a player's ability to defend.
Smotherman has gotten the message.
He is the unranked member of what looms as another strong Purdue basketball recruiting effort, this time in the Class of 2013. The group is ranked third nationally by Scout.com, a national Internet recruiting service. North Carolina is No. 1. Kansas is No. 2.
Also in the Boilers' class are shooting guard Kendall Stephens out of St. Charles, Ill., and point guard Bryson Scott of Northrop.
The 6-3 Stephens is rated as the nation's No. 9 shooting guard in his class, and No. 50 player overall, by Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service. The 6-1 Scott is rated as the No. 7 point guard and No. 51 player overall.
Smotherman is a 6-6, 190-pound small forward and if he has not impressed the recruiting experts, well, he has time to change that.
“I want to gain some weight and hopefully get taller,” he says. “Develop my shooting, rebounding and just everything. I don't want to have a missing piece where people can say, ‘Oh, he's got to get better.'”
Smotherman's AAU coach, Matt Green of the powerhouse Eric Gordon All-Stars 17 U, sees plenty of potential.
“It starts with his athleticism,” Green says. “He's a very good athlete. He gets up and down (the court). He's a high-level rebounder. He plays the game from 15-feet and in, and he has the ability to shoot the 3. When he's at his best, he's out there running, in transition, getting to the rim.”
As far as offense, Smotherman says he's already preparing for the challenges he'll face in the Big Ten. He says he's focused on, “Getting to the basket and knocking down shots. Do the little things so we can score and try to win a national championship.”
Adds Green: “He has to improve his shot, and knowing he can contribute in other ways -- defensively, rebounds, guarding people. It's not all about the offensive end. When he's contributing in some kind of way, he's really good.
“A lot of kids focus on offense. They forget about defending and rebounding and all the other stuff you're capable of doing on the floor. Basil understands that.”
Smotherman was solid during last weekend's Adidas Spring Invitational at Fishers, Ind. He was joined by Eric Gordon All-Stars teammates V.J. Beachem (committed to Notre Dame), Devin Davis (committed to Indiana), and Zak Irvin (committed to Michigan). Sidelined with a concussion was Collin Hartman (committed to IU). The Eric Gordon squad was favored to win the Adidas event, but lost in the semifinals to a strong Wisconsin Swing team.
That's part of Smotherman's hectic spring. Most of his weekends will be tied up in tournaments.
“I like to be in my bed, but traveling, being with these guys, getting to the hotel late and talking a lot about what we're gong to do when we get to college and how we'll miss each other, I enjoy that,” Smotherman says. “When I get to Purdue we'll be doing a lot of traveling to Illinois, Ohio and other places. I have to get used it.”
Smotherman says he stays in contact with Boiler coaches, particularly with assistant coach Jack Owens.
“He tells me what I need to work on and what I'm doing well. He'll give me pointers on what I can do to make my game better.”
Smotherman also devotes workout time with his Lawrence North teammates.
“We're running and lifting and doing everything trying to get better,” he says. “We want to be the best in Indiana.”
Also in recruiting, Purdue is in the running to fill its one-year scholarship that opened up with John Hart's decision to transfer for his final season. Wright State's fifth-year senior guard Julius Mays is transferring after one season with the Raiders and Purdue is a possibility.
Mays, a former Indiana All-Star from Marion who started his college career at North Carolina State, could help fill the void left when Kelsey Barlow was kicked off the team last season.
The 6-2 Mays led Wright State in scoring (14.1 points) and assists (74) while shooting 42.4 percent from three-point range and 83.2 percent from the line this past season. He set a school record by making 19 free throws against Illinois-Chicago last January. That was enough for him to win Horizon League Newcomer of the Year.
Mays could transfer to another school if he graduates in June and enrolls in graduate school in a program Wright State doesn't offer.