MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber announced the signing of transfer Mark Smith (Edwardsville, Ill./Edwardsville/Missouri) to a Financial Aid Agreement on Wednesday (March 31).
A 6-foot-5, 220-pound shooting guard, Smith will have one year of eligibility remaining after the NCAA granted fall and winter sport student-athletes an additional year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under NCAA graduate transfer rules, he will be eligible to play for the Wildcats in the Fall 2021 after graduating from Missouri with an undergraduate degree in Sport Management. He is expected to graduate in May.
This was K-State’s third recruitment of the Edwardsville, Illinois native who had the Wildcats among his finalists when the former Illinois Mr. Basketball selected Illinois out of high school and then again when he transferred after his freshman season in 2017-18 and ultimately decided to attend Missouri.
“We’re really excited about the addition of Mark,” said Weber. “Obviously, we know him well having recruited him out of high school then again after he decided to leave Illinois. I guess you could say the third time’s the charm. It was important to me to reach out to (Missouri head coach) Cuonzo (Martin) after Mark decided to transfer and get his perspective and he was very positive about him. Once I had that conversation, we reached out to Mark and his family, and after some time, we all came to the realization that it was a good fit.”
Smith arrives at K-State after a three-year stint (2018-21) at Missouri, where he saw action in 69 games, including 61 starts. He also spent one season at Illinois, where he played in 31 games with 18 starts as a true freshman in 2017-18. Overall, he has logged 100 games of experience at the Division I level, including 79 starts.
Smith has scored nearly 1,000 points in his college career, totaling 887 (8.9 ppg.) in his 100 games played on 38.3 percent (287-of-749) shooting, including 35.3 percent (158-of-448) from 3-point range, while knocking down 76.7 percent (155-of-202) from the free throw line. He has 40 career double-digit scoring games, including 19 games of 15 or more points and 5 20-point games. In addition, he has collected 319 rebounds (3.2 rpg.), 116 assists (1.2 apg.) and 78 steals (0.8 spg.) in 2,540 minutes (25.4 mpg.) in his career.
“It was important for us as a staff (when adding players) to get more experience especially with all the freshmen we played this year. Mark is someone who has great experience and has played at a high level in both the Big Ten and SEC and just started in an NCAA Tournament game. He knows how to difficult it is to play in a league like the Big 12 and how to prepare. We also needed more shooting and Mark, obviously, fits that bill. He is a really, talented shooter and, at one point, was one of the best 3-point shooters in the country. He knows how to make plays and set up his teammates to make plays.”
Smith arrives after a three-year stint at Missouri, where he averaged 10.3 points (708 total) on 39.8 percent (227-of-571) shooting, including 37.5 percent (142-of-379) from 3-point range, with 4.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.9 steals in 28.3 minutes per game while playing in 69 games with 61 starts. He was also an outstanding free throw shooter, connecting on 75.7 percent (112-of-148). He scored in double figures in 34 career games, including registering four 20-point games. His career-high of 23 points came against Southern Illinois on December 15, 2019.
Despite missing 20 games as a sophomore (2018-19) and junior (2019-20) seasons due to injury, Smith performed well against SEC competition in his Mizzou career, averaging 9.0 points on 36 percent (100-of-278) shooting, including 33 percent (63-of-189) from 3-point range, with 3.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.9 steals in 27 minutes per game while playing in 34 games with 17 starts.
Smith is coming off a solid season in 2020-21, in which, he helped the Tigers post a 16-10 overall record, including an 8-8 mark in SEC play, and advance to their first NCAA Tournament since 2018 where they lost in the first round to No. 8 seed Oklahoma, 72-68, on March 20. He was fourth on the team in scoring at 9.7 points per game, while he was second in total minutes (768), third in 3-point field goals made (40) and steals (25) and fourth in assists (26) while playing in all 26 games with 24 starts. Overall, he connected on 37.2 percent (80-of-215) from the field, including 31.5 percent (40-of-127) from 3-point range, with 3.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.0 steals in 29.5 minutes per game. He scored in double figures in 13 games, including 8 times in SEC play. He scored a season-high 19 points in the Tigers’ 72-62 win at Wichita State on December 6, 2020, while he had 11 points on 3-of-7 field goals, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range in the loss to the Sooners in the NCAA Tournament.
His best season at Missouri came as a sophomore in 2018-19, in which, he averaged 11.4 points on 43.6 percent (72-of-165) shooting, including 45 percent (49-of-109) from 3-point range, with 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 28.4 minutes per game. He limited to 19 games with 17 starts, as he missed 13 games due to injury.
Smith will be one of the few players to have played for and against the Wildcats, as he posted 11 points on 3-of-7 field goals, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range, with 4 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal in 23 minutes against K-State in the championship game of the Paradise Jam on November 19, 2018.
Smith played his freshman season at Illinois in 2017-18, where he played in 31 of the Fighting Illini’s 32 games with 18 starts. He averaged 5.8 points on 33.7 percent (60-of-178) shooting, including 23.2 percent (16-of-69) from 3-point range, with 1.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 19.1 minutes per game. He scored in double figures in 6 games, including a season-high 21 points against DePaul on November 17, 2017.
Smith was one of the top prep players in the country coming out of Edwardsville High School in Edwardsville, Illinois, as he was selected the 2017 Illinois Mr. Basketball and Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year en route to guiding the Tigers to the Class 4A Super-Sectionals as a senior to cap a 30-2 season. He was a first team all-state selection by The Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, Champaign News-Gazette and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association. He averaged 21.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 2.1 steals as a senior, while hitting 44 3-pointers and shooting 82 percent from the free throw line.
Smith was a consensus four-star recruit coming out of high school, including No. 55 by Rivals in the Class of 2017.
Smith is the 29th Division I player to transfer to K-State, joining current sophomore Kaosi Ezeagu. He is the third player to arrive as a graduate transfer, joining Jermaine Maybank (2006-07) and Mawdo Sallah (2017-18).
K-State’s 2021-22 roster is currently taking shape, as Smith joins Wisconsin prep standout Logan Landers (Cedarburg, Wis./Cedarburg), who signed with the Wildcats during the Fall Signing Period in November, in the incoming recruiting class. Senior Mike McGuirl, who was an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selection in 2020-21, announced on March 22 that he was utilizing his extra season of eligibility and returning to the Wildcats.
The team will also return its freshmen core of Nijel Pack, Selton Miguel and Davion Bradford, who combined to start 71 games in 2020-21. The 71 combined starts were the second-most by any team in Division I this past season. The trio combined to average 25.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.0 steals this season.
Head Coach Bruce Weber:
On the signing of Mark Smith…
“We’re really excited about the addition of Mark. Obviously, we know him well having recruited him out of high school then again after he decided to leave Illinois. I guess you could say the third time’s the charm. It was important to me to reach out to (Missouri head coach) Cuonzo (Martin) after Mark decided to transfer and get his perspective and he was very positive about him. Once I had that conversation, we reached out to Mark and his family, and after some time, we all came to the realization that it was a good fit.”
On what he and the staff were looking for when adding a player like Mark Smith…
“It was important for us as a staff (when adding players) to get more experience especially with all the freshmen we played this year. Mark is someone who has great experience and has played at a high level in both the Big Ten and SEC, and just started in an NCAA Tournament game. He knows how to difficult it is to play in a league like the Big 12 and how to prepare. We also needed more shooting and Mark, obviously, fits that bill. He is a really, talented shooter and, at one point, was one of the best 3-point shooters in the country. He knows how to make plays and set up his teammates to make plays.”
On how Mark Smith’s game has evolved…
“Mark just has a really good feel for the game. You don’t play college basketball at this level and not have a good feel for how to play. It’s something besides his shooting, he wants to have the ball in his hands to not only make plays for himself but for others. He gives us another versatile athlete that can play anywhere.”
Associate Head Coach Chris Lowery (primary recruiter):
On the signing of Mark Smith…
“First off, Mark has great experience. He has started several high-level games in two different leagues. He has played in packed arenas, in hostile environments. He has been through scouting reports with some of the top teams in both leagues, and now he can bring that experience to our young crew. The biggest thing about Mark is that he’s made tough shots in tough situations. He’s been a starter on an NCAA Tournament team. He’ll just bring a level of steadiness and ease. He also has a high IQ and has a great understanding of how to play. He’s also a graduate, so he has the maturity to handle the academic side.”
On how he fits on the team…
“The one thing that we want to do is shoot the ball better and Mark is a good shooter. He’s had seasons of 40 (percent) or better from the field. He also has a track record of shooting at a high clip from 3-point range and is a good passer. You can initiate stuff with him. He’s an older guy who will fit in our guard group because he has can dribble, pass and shoot at a high level.”