Ever since Darrin Horn's hiring, Eric Smith's name has kept popping up. He was one of the three recruits Horn visited the day after his introduction as USC's new men's basketball coach. A few months later he was used (by this reporter) as an example of the kind of player Horn and his staff were pursuing.
Now we may be at a new stage: A commitment.
Smith, who started his junior year at Mullins High School this week, could commit to the Gamecocks as soon as next week, his father Steven told me Thursday night.
"It's looking pretty good that he's going to commit to South Carolina," the father said. “He likes South Carolina, and they seem to really like him,” Steven Smith said.
The Smiths are trying to arrange a visit to USC for next week, and if all goes well, a commitment would happen then. That would give Horn his second commitment, following swingman Lakeem Jackson from Charlotte, who made his choice in July.
It would be Horn's first commitment from the 2010 class, since Smith is a junior, and Jackson a senior. Smith also has a chance to be the replacement for All-SEC point guard Devan Downey, who will be a junior this season.
The 6-foot Smith is widely considered to be the state's top point guard recruit in the 2010 class. His father knows a little something about point guards, having coached Raymond Felton to state titles at Latta High School earlier this decade.
As for his son, Steven Smith described him as a pass-first type who could still spread the floor with his shot.
“He’s not a 6-5 OJ Mayo type. But his game is very aggressive with the ball. He’s at his best, put it this way, when he’s aggressive with the ball," Steven Smith said. "Coach Horn made the statement when he saw him in Ohio … in May at the Lebron James tournament, that he noticed that no one ever took the ball from him. So when he’s at his best, he handles the ball pretty well, he pushes the ball, he’s aggressive. He’s a strong point guard.”
Previous coach Dave Odom’s staff was on the brink of offering Smith, and had watched him for two years. Since Horn came aboard, assistant Cypheus Bunton has had the most contact with the player.
The Gamecocks are also recruiting point guards in the 2009 class, such as Eric Bledsoe from Birmingham, Ala. That’s because there’s no natural backup point guard on the current roster, as well as a safeguard in case Downey leaves before his senior year.
Steven Smith said he understood that.
"It's not a situation like I'm thinking, 'Well we know they're not gonna recruit another point guard,' " Steven Smith said. "But I tell Eric, 'You go up there and you compete, and you'll get your playing time.' "