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Ray Smith could tell there was more inside himself if he just worked a little harder to find it.
Describing himself as “not very good” on the basketball court, the 6-foot-6, 180-pound forward for Las Vegas High and the Las Vegas Prospects started getting up at 7 a.m. for workouts with his dad. That turned into 6 a.m. workouts. And now that Smith has emerged as a legit prospect on the West Coast recruiting scene?
“I’ll do whatever it takes,” Smith said after a recent Prospects practice. “If I have to wake up at 5 in the morning to go work out, that’s what I’ll do.”
Smith’s introduction as an up-and-comer in the class of 2015 came at a local event in April. Smith said he didn’t see many coaches on the sidelines, relieving some pressure, and just went out with his mind focused on playing to his strengths. While his ballhandling still needs work, Smith is improving his jump shot and trying to emulate Andrew Wiggins, the versatile top class of 2013 recruit.
“Basketball is his passion, and he goes to the rim hard,” Smith said.
The tournament went well, and out of nowhere, Smith said, his dad got a call from UNLV.
“I talked to coach (Dave) Rice,” Smith said.
The Rebels quickly offered him a scholarship, as did San Diego State. Smith is one of five players in the 2014 and 2015 classes who currently holds a UNLV offer. Rice is unable to comment on potential recruits, per NCAA rules.
Northern Arizona also has moved into the picture, and Smith said a trip his Las Vegas High team is taking this summer could set him up with an unofficial visit in Flagstaff, Ariz. He also hopes to take other unofficial visits once the dead contact period ends June 15.
By the time the Prospects play in the Fab 48 tournament across Las Vegas the last weekend of July, Smith’s list of suitors likely will be much longer. And if the current trend continues, he’ll be a much better player by that time, too.
Smith’s increased work was enough to get him noticed, but that’s hardly his only goal.
“When I wasn’t good, I knew I was better than this,” Smith said. “You know your expectations, and I knew I wasn’t meeting what I could actually do. And I’m still not. But I wanted to put in the work and I wanted to get better, so I had this mindset, ‘Let’s work, let’s get better.’”
Besides specific skill sets, Smith said there’s one phrase he hears over and over from coaches and scouts.
“Aggressive, that’s the word for me,” he said.
Coaches will always take a kid they have to tone down over one they have to turn up, one of many lessons Smith is learning as he hits the road for the big events on the Prospects’ schedule. The team will be in Dallas this weekend with trips to Long Beach, Calif., and Milwaukee, among others, on tap in the next two months.
No matter who comes calling, UNLV will have two advantages as Smith’s recruiting process plays out. First, the Rebels were involved early, something that often comes back to benefit coaches. And second, he’s a local, which can be good or bad depending on how far from home Smith decides he wants to play.
“I used to go to (UNLV) games,” Smith said. “It’s always been a school that I’ve liked.”
Based on past history with recruits, Rebels fans this summer will turn out to let Smith know the feeling is mutual.