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Evansville transfer Dru Smith commits to Missouri

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The 6’3 Evansville native averaged 13.7 points per game and made 49% of his 3-pointers for the Aces in 2017-18.

Evansville v Louisville Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Since announcing his intention to leave Evansville last month, point guard Dru Smith’s recruitment unfolded in cloak-and-dagger fashion.

That was the case until Friday, at least, when Rivals’ Corey Evans reported Smith pledged his services to Missouri.

The move came a day after Smith wrapped up an official visit to Columbia. He will sit next year under NCAA transfer rules and have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

While Smith, who is 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, isn’t an explosive athlete, he possesses all the attributes Missouri would want in a lead guard, one who averaged 13.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists last season for the Purple Aces.

Yet Smith understands how to use his dribble to get to his desired spot on the floor, allowing him to probe gaps and generate optimal passing angles. Playing in Evansville’s motion offense also honed his ability to make smart reads for passes to shooters coming off of screens and timing feeds to cutters.

It explains why Smith sported a gaudy 37.5 assist rate last season, ranking 12 nationally according to KenPom.com.

As a scorer, Smith’s shot selection is the definition of efficient — he produced an outstanding 71.3 true-shooting percentage last season. An average outside shooter coming out of Evansville Reitz High School, Smith turned himself into a threat from behind the arc, knocking in 49.1 percent of 3-point attempts last season. Paired with a reliable floater and stellar footwork to find space at the rim, he can score at at all three levels.

As a defender, Smith’s basketball IQ makes up for average lateral quickness. He understands the nuances of pick-and-roll overages, while strong anticipation skills helped him rank 18th nationally with a 4.0 steal percentage.

Keep in mind, too, that Smith also battled nagging foot injuries last season, which hampered his mobility.

For as much as Missouri decided to hang back in pursuing graduate transfers, landing Smith is a coup. He’s rated as the No. 4 transfer available, per BartTorvik.com’s rankings.

He’s also proven adaptable. In high school, he played at the top of a zone press that generated offense from takeaways. During his senior year at Reitz, he evolved from role player to one the best players in Indiana, averaging 20.3 points, 7.3 assists, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 steals.

Still, Smith drew attention mostly from mid-major programs, picking hometown Evansville over Ball State and Indiana State.

After a solid freshman season, where he was a member of the MVC All-Freshman team, Smith’s assist rate climbed by 46 percentage points and his scoring ticked up by 8.4 points per game. Ultimately, though, the Purple Aces finished just 17-15, and long-tenured coach Marty Simmons fired.

With Simmons’ exit, Smith sought to explore his options, taking visits to Missouri, Virginia Tech and Xavier.

His addition is also a not-so-subtle hint about where Mizzou stands in the race for Webster Groves point guard Courtney Ramey, who will likely announce his chosen destination soon.

With the addition of Smith, MU has just one remaining scholarship open for next season. While freshman combo forward Jontay Porter could still pull his name from the NBA draft, he’s expected to stay in the pool and move on to the professional ranks.

The Tigers look to be in contention to land Sunrise Christian Academy Forward Blake Hinson, who visited Columbia earlier this week and is targeting May 5 as a commitment date.