North Little Rock guard Nick Smith Jr. has committed to Arkansas and gives the Razorbacks their first 5-star pledge since Bobby Portis in 2013.
Smith said the culture around Arkansas coach Eric Musselman’s program was too good to pass up.
“He was like by far the most thing I was looking for in terms of business and hoops,” Smith said. “I just have to take that chance.”
An ESPN 5-star recruit, Smith is the highest-ranked prospect to pledge to Arkansas in the modern recruiting service era and ranked No. 6 nationally by ESPN.
ESPN also ranks Smith the No. 4 shooting guard in the nation for the 2022 class.
Portis was previously the highest-rated in-state prospect in the ESPN rankings when he was ranked 16th at Little Rock Hall. BJ Young, who committed to the Razorbacks in 2011, was also 16th.
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https://www.wholeho…">What Smith's commitment means for Arkansas
Musselman’s NBA background was a big deal to Smith.
“He kept preaching that ever since I started this recruitment process,” Smith said. “That’s really the only thing I wanted to see.”
Smith, 6-5, 185 pounds, accumulated scholarship offers from Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Auburn, Kansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Texas, Oregon and several other programs before choosing the Razorbacks. He narrowed his finalists to Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn and Arkansas-Pine-Bluff.
He said his parents were behind his decision regardless of where he committed.
“My family is going to support me wherever I go, whether it’s Alabama, Auburn or UAPB,” Smith said.
Smith made an official visit to Arkansas on Sept. 10-12 and other visits to Kansas, Auburn and Alabama in June. He made an unofficial visit to UAPB on Aug. 21.
The Razorbacks are also in contention for ESPN 5-star small forward Jordan Walsh and 4-star small forward Anthony Black.
“I really haven’t been talking to them lately, but I’ll stay in touch with them, for sure,” Smith said. “Come play with me. Why not?”
Musselman’s first two seasons at Arkansas, which includes an Elite Eight appearance this past season, helped the Razorbacks' cause.
“If you know Muss, you know Muss is a competitor,” Smith said. “He does not like to lose. That’s a gene I have. I don’t like losing and I know for a fact he’s going to push me each and every day. He’s going to push his team. The season they had last year was a great season, but his competitive drive really got to me.”
He announced his decision at the same location – Arkansas Fitness and Athletics on Cantrell – that former Razorbacks guard and Golden State Warriors rookie Moses Moody did when he pledged to Arkansas on Nov. 9, 2019.
Moody’s one-and-done season helped his decision in picking the Razorbacks.
“Moses was really highly rated coming in but he wasn’t like on anybody’s lottery draft boards I don’t think, like, in the preseason," Smith said, "but seeing what he did is something I can relate to.”
An estimated crowd of about 250 people, which included family, friends, teammates and Razorbacks fans, showed up for his announcement.
“I didn’t know a lot of people would come but I knew it would be a good amount,” Smith said. “I thank everybody that came out to support me.”
Smith was named the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette All-Arkansas Preps Underclassman of the Year after averaging 21.3 points, 3 rebounds and 3 steals per game as a sophomore for Sylvan Hills, and was named the All-Arkansas Preps Player of the Year after averaging 25 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists as a junior.
Smith led the Brad Beal Elite AAU team to a 6-2 record and the finals of Peach Jam while averaging 18.6 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists per game.
He scored 31 points in the championship game and became the first player since NBA star Michael Porter Jr. to score more than 30 in the finals.
He’s excited to represent his home state.
“My reputation is everything," he said. "I just wanted to prove you can stay in the state and do what other people are doing."
In today’s social media climate and being a high profile recruit, he is relieved to have his decision out of the way.
“After I got done talking with my family about it, I’m more comfortable putting it out to (the) public,” Smith said. “I knew for a fact it was the right choice for me.”
During a recent in-home visit with Musselman, Smith took his future coach to the side and told him he was going to be a Razorback.
“I said, 'Save my No. 3 jersey,’ and he just hugged me like 12 times,” Smith said.
When asked if he would sign during the early signing period that runs November 10-17, Smith said he wasn’t sure.
Smith joins ESPN 4-star shooting guard Joseph Pinion of Morrilton, ESPN 4-star guard Derrian Ford of Magnolia and ESPN 4-star small forward Barry Dunning of Mobile (Ala.) McGill-Toolen Catholic as Arkansas pledges for the 2022 class.