Mark Smith leaving Illini basketball program


CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — After only one season with the Illini, guard Mark Smith has decided to leave the program and transfer.

Smith signed with Illinois in April of 2017, the first to commit to Illinois head coach Brad Underwood. He started the season hot, averaging 13.8 points per game through the first 5 games of the season. But faltered from there, only scoring in double figures twice the rest of the season.

He started 19 games for the Illini and finished the year averaging 5.8 points per game, in 19.1 minutes.

Smith and his parents met with Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman Monday morning to discuss his transfer. Illinois will give Smith a full release, meaning he can transfer to any school. He will have three years of eligibility remaining.

We spoke with him Wednesday after Illinois lost to Iowa in the BigTen tournament, ending their season. We asked him about his freshman season with the Illini.

“It was a good learning experience for me. I know what I have to get better on this offseason, I know what I have to work on, the stuff that I need to add to my game,” Smith said. “I need to work on my defense a lot. Just keep figuring out coach and doing what he says, trust the process. I thought my freshman year, it could have went smoother but this is good. The bumps, the bumps that I had was a good learning experience for me. Good experience for me for next year. I feel like I took a lot of good things away from this year.”

With his transfer, Illinois now has two open scholarships.

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