March 06, 2017
By Chris Stanley
While many folks in Statesboro simply wait around for spring football season to begin, they sit in ignorance of the fact Georgia Southern’s basketball team is doing quite well this season. As a matter of fact, the Sun Belt’s leading scorer plays for the Eagles – but most people in Statesboro might not be able to pick Ike Smith out of a lineup. Let’s get to know the sophomore from Gainesville, Florida.
CS: So I have to ask, where does Ike come from? I feel like we don’t make a lot of Ikes anymore.
IS: Well, my Dad’s actually an Ike. I have a whole family of Ikes. My full name’s Ikeon.
IS: I go by Ike because it’s shorter.
CS: I would too. Ikeon sounds like the giraffe mascot for Ikea.
IS: I know right? It’s a weird name. It makes it easier on everyone to call me Ike. People look at Ikeon on paper and get all confused. I’d just rather be called Ike.
CS: You’re the only Ike I’ve ever met. Outside of other the Ikes in your family have you met any other Ikes?
IS: I know a bunch of Isaacs who go by Ike.
CS: Isaacs go by Ike?
IS: Yeah, I’ve met a few.
CS: Has that been something fans have caught on to going back to your high school days in Gainesville? Saying or chanting Ike?
IS: Yeah, it was. It’s something I’ve always taken to be unique.
CS: Speaking of Gainesville, you came out of the same Florida recruiting class as Ben Simmons. He didn’t play that far away from you, did y’all ever cross paths in high school or travel ball?
IS: No, I never saw him, for travel I was on team Adidas and he was on team Nike.
CS: Wait a minute, you played for team Adidas?
IS: Yeah, it was the Florida Elite Adidas team. That was a pretty crazy experience.
CS: How did you wind up on that team?
IS: Well, I played for a local travel team around Gainesville, and team Adidas had a big camp near where we lived. I got invited to come play at the camp and I guess they liked me so much they decided to keep me on.
CS: Were there any other notable names on the team besides yourself?
IS: Deng Adel, Ryan McMahon from Louisville were both on my team, so was Deng Riak from ECU. Adel is a big time player for Louisville, so that’s pretty cool to watch.
CS: What all did you get to do playing for the Florida Elites?
IS: Well, above anything else going to Las Vegas was the coolest thing. We got to play in a big tournament where we played against all the other big prospects.
CS: Who was the best kid you got to see while you were out there?
IS: Jaylen Brown for sure. That kid was a beast.
CS: Jaylen Brown? As in the kid from Cal who was the No. 3 overall pick by the Boston Celtics last year?
IS: Oh yeah. I had to guard him too.
CS: What was that like?
IS: Unbelieveable. He was so good. It’s crazy to see him playing in the NBA now. It really makes me want to keep pushing myself so I can get on his level someday.
CS: Anyone else big you all played against who comes to mind?
IS: I got to go up against Chase Jeter from Duke, but other than that I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head. But that whole experience was crazy. I’ll never forget it.
CS: Was there anything you didn’t like about Vegas?
IS: Yeah, it was way too hot for me.
CS: But you’re from Florida – aren’t you supposed to be used to the heat?
IS: Not that kind of heat, man. That’s that dry desert heat. I could never be in that kind of heat again for the rest of my life and be perfectly fine.
CS: Would I be correct in assuming while you were in Vegas you got to play in front of a lot of scouts?
IS: Oh yeah, that was nerve racking. I’ve never played in front of that many people in my life. But the good thing about that was I got a majority of my offers from playing in those seven games in Vegas.
CS: Who were some of the teams that recruited you out of that tournament?
IS: Georgia Southern obviously, Ohio, Tennessee Tech, Jacksonville, Arkansas State and Coastal Carolina.
CS: Well, those are all mid-majors. You had just finished playing against guys from Duke and Cal. Were you at all disappointed you didn’t get any offers from bigger schools?
IS: No not really. Division I is Division I. Mid-majors are good, I mean the Sun Belt is one of the better college basketball conference in the mid-majors in my opinion.
CS: Why do you think you were so overlooked? I mean you weren’t even ranked in the top-50 kids coming out of Florida in 2015.
IS: I really couldn’t tell you. All I know is that it’s put a chip on my shoulder to be better once I got here to Statesboro.
CS: Has that chip helped you become the leading scorer in the Sun Belt this year?
IS: To be honest, I never thought I’d come here and do that. And I really don’t try to think about that either.
CS: What? I mean you have to admit, it’s pretty cool out of all those guys you played with in travel league you’re the only one who leads his conference in scoring.
IS: I mean it is cool, but I don’t think that’s what’s important. I’m just here to win games, man.
CS: So if you guys don’t make it to the big dance would that be a disappointment?
IS: I mean that’s been the goal from the start is to make the tournament. Right now we just have to take one game at a time, and hopefully it all pays off.