Henricksen: Smart another big piece of Loyola plan

SHARE Henricksen: Smart another big piece of Loyola plan
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When Porter Moser took over at Loyola there was no Missouri Valley Conference affiliation at the time.

Loyola, which was competing in the Horizon League when Moser was hired in April of 2011, soon began positioning itself for a MVC invite before ultimately joining the league officially two years after Moser was hired. The process of becoming a major player as a newcomer in a tough, established league was always going to take time.

While the opening of the Norville Center, a new athletics complex that opened in 2011, and the renovations to Gentile Arena were a plus and a definite upgrade, Moser and his staff needed Missouri Valley Conference-type players.

Enter Roosevelt Smart.

The former Palatine and St. Viator star was among the top dozen prospects in the Class of 2015 in Illinois before heading off to Sunrise Christian Prep in Kansas last month. And he’s the exact type of player and prospect that’s needed to climb the ranks in the always-strong Missouri Valley.

As a 6-3 offensive weapon, Smart brings versatile scoring ability and size on the perimeter at the 2-guard position. He has range on his jumper and is a wiry slasher who competes and plays hard at both ends of the floor.

Maybe even more importantly, Smart brings the same vision and expectations the coaching staff shares. When talking about Loyola and his commitment, he immediately rattled off goals such as “winning 20-plus games, winning a conference championship, getting to the tournament.”

“I just want to go in and do what I can do to help the program win,” says Smart, who put together an outstanding junior season this past year at St. Viator and a strong summer with the Illinois Wolves. “I want to win.”

Smart’s official visit put Loyola over the top in his recruitment, particularly the connection he felt with the players in the program.

“There was a chemistry I had with the guys while I was on my official visit, which I already felt with the coaches,” says Smart. “It felt like a second family to me.”

Smart, who the Loyola staff did a terrific job recruiting, is one of the higher-profile players the Ramblers have landed in years as he’s ranked among the top 150 players in the country, according to Rivals.com. He will join a program next year that will include former Marshall star Milton Doyle, who was the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year.

In addition, Moser and his staff of Daniyal Robinson, Emanuel Dildy and Matt Gordon welcome a solid group of newcomers to build around this year, including local product Donte Ingram, a freshman from Simeon. Ben Richardson, a 6-3 scorer out of Kansas, 6-9 Julius Rajala, a Finland product, and a pair of jucos, 6-3 Earl Peterson and 6-7 Montel James, round out a nucleus that should help elevate the Ramblers.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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