Hard work doesn't phase Basil Smotherman. It's the means to an end, a chance to prove to those who underestimate him that the best is coming.
It will come at Purdue, by the way.
So here he was, busting through a Sunday Hoosier Basketball Magazine top-60 workout at Indianapolis' Marian University that helped him earn a spot on the Indiana All-Star basketball team. At 6-7 and 205 pounds, he demonstrated athleticism, skill and a scorer's touch, the same attributes that helped him thrive at Indianapolis Lawrence North High School this past season.
“You have to compete,” he said.
That's easy to say, but as so many coaches will tell you, hard to do.
Smotherman competed his way to career-high averages of 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists for a 16-6 Lawrence North team. He showed the kind of intensity he'll need to thrive in Big Ten battles.
Still, there's plenty of work ahead. He understands that.
“I've got to get my body bigger,” he said. “I need to improve my outside shot, which I've been getting better at. I need to better at rebounding, dribbling, defense, everything.”
Smotherman said he stays in contact with Purdue coach Matt Painter, as well as assistant coach Jack Owens.
“I pretty much talk every day with Coach Owens. It's just talking, about getting ready for the next level. What I need to work on. That little things matter.”
Smotherman said he hadn't done much pick-up-game playing in the weeks since his high school season ended. But a chance to do some of that in the top-60 workout with such players as Indiana Mr. Basketball Zak Irwin (heading to Michigan), plus Indiana-bound Devin Davis, Darius Latham and Collin Hartman, provided a welcome change.
All of them, by the way, also made the Indiana All-Star team that will compete against Kentucky next month.
“It was fun playing with these guys again,” Smotherman said. “We're all uniting to beat Kentucky and the Juniors. I feel like the guys here can do that.”
That would be the Indiana Junior All-Stars, a group that includes Bishop Luers' standout James Blackmon as well as Indianapolis Park Tudor's Trevon Bluiett, Evansville Bosse's JaQuan Lyle, Greensburg's Bryant McIntosh and Indianapolis Tech's Trey Lyles.
Smotherman is rated as the state's No. 4 player, and the nation's No. 26 small forward by ESPN.com. He's considered a three-star prospect by Rivals.com and Scout.com, a pair of national Internet recruiting services, but his play in recent months suggests he's now better than that.
“Basil is a very good athlete who can play both forward spots,” Painter said in a university release. “He's a guy who is very impressive from a physical standpoint. He's got a big frame, and he's long and athletic. He's continuing to improve his skill set and energy level. He could be a high-energy guy who runs the floor, crashes the glass and really defends the wing perimeter.”
Smotherman is part of Purdue's highly regarded three-player class for 2013. The others are Northrop guard Bryson Scott (who also made the Indiana All-Star team) and Illinois guard Kendall Stephens.
The 6-1 Scott is a prolific scorer (more than 2,000 career points in high school) and a strong defender (Rivals.com named him one of the nation's 10 best perimeter defenders in this class) who likely will play a variety of backcourt roles for the Boilers.
Rivals.com rates the 6-5 Stephens as the nation's No. 18 shooting guard. Scout.com has him as the No. 14 shooting guard and the No. 65 player overall. Stephens is coming off right shoulder surgery, but is expected to be at full health for next season. He could provide much-needed outside shooting prowess.
The Boilers struggled to a 16-18 record this past season. That snapped a streak of six straight NCAA tourney appearances and the goal is to make it back ASAP.
There's a solid core of returning players led by guards Terone Johnson (13.2 points, 4.7 rebounds) and Ronnie Johnson (9.8 points, 4.0 assists), center A.J. Hammons (10.8 points, 6.1 rebounds) and former Fort Wayne South Side standout Rapheal Davis (5.9 points, 3.7 rebounds).
Smotherman said the hope is the incoming freshmen can help boost Purdue back to national relevance.
“We'll help a lot. They were young last year. A lot of those guys are going to be sophomores next year (Ronnie Johnson, Hammons, Davis), and they know what to expect. We're anxious to get up there. We have a lot of missing pieces to help put them (back in Big Ten title contention).”
One key is whether Painter can convince forward Sandi Marcius to stay for his senior season. The 6-9, 268-pounder finally emerged as an inside force in the second half of last season. He averaged 2.9 points and 2.3 rebounds.
Reports are Marcius has asked for his release so he can play his final season for another program. Painter told Indianapolis radio station WNDE that he wants Marcius to stay, but doesn't want players who don't want to be part of the program.