Dennis Smith Jr. is NC State’s top priority in the 2016 recruiting class. Then again, he’s a lot of people’s top priority. He’s ranked as the #4 overall player, and the number #1 point guard in his class. He is widely considered to be an NC State lean at this point, and personally I would be shocked if he doesn’t run with the Wolfpack. It’s obvious that recruiting analysts think he’s great, and so do all the fans that watch his mixtape’s. But what does his coach think?
We caught up with Heath Vandevender, the head coach of Trinity Christian School, to get his take on what coaching Smith has been like. Vandevender doesn’t have offensive goals for Smith next season. He has defensive goals for him.
“Junior has gotten better every year. His roles have changed for us every year. He will be captain for us this year,” Vandevender said. “The biggest thing I want him to be for us this year, is to be the defensive leader as well. I want him to be a ‘shut down’ guy, and take on more leadership responsibility on both sides of the court. We need to get better defensively, and that starts with your best player, and that’s Junior.”
Vandevender has coached some good players, but says Smith is the best he has ever coached.
“We’ve had other players come through our program that went to Divsision-1 schools. I coached against John Wall for three years,” said Vandevender. “We’ve played against some really good people, but Junior is the best player I’ve ever coached.”
Two point guards of their caliber, from the state of North Carolina, in this short period of time…It is inevitable that comparisons between Smith and Wall will be made.
“Both of them are exceptional talents and super athletic. John has gear with the ball that very few players that I’ve seen have. He gets down the floor faster than anyone I’ve ever seen. He’s a little bit taller than Junior. I believe he’s closer to 6’4″ (Junior is 6’1″),” said Vandevender. “Junior in my opinion, in high school, is a better offensive player. Dennis can shoot the three consistently. He’s a scoring point guard. John had a lot of really great players surrounding him, like CJ Leslie and Dez Wells. It’s hard to make comparisons, but I do think they are similar players. I think that Dennis is a better shooter, and more dangerous on the offensive end to be honest.”
4-Star SF Jahki Howard Takes an Unofficial Visit to NC State
4-Star 2024 Small Forward Jahki Howard (6’7″/180) took an Unofficial Visit to NC State yesterday alongside 4-Star Shooting Guard Paul McNeil, who verbally committed to run with the Wolfpack yesterday.
🐺🐺nation ? Unofficial visit❤️🤍 #notcommitted pic.twitter.com/NxNncnptkm
— Jahki Howard (@showtime_ki) February 20, 2023
Howard is ranked as the #51 overall player nationally in the 2024 class by Rivals, and the #4 player in the state of Georgia according to ESPN. Howard plays for Overtime Elite in Atlanta, where 2023 NC State signee Trey Parker plays.
He also holds offers from Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Providence, Auburn, Rutgers, Illinois, Texas A&M, Mississippi St, Wake Forest, Florida, LSU, Ole Miss, Arizona St, Kansas, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, and others.
As far as I can tell, Howard doesn’t hold an offer from NC State at this point.
Jahki Howard earns Player of the Week honors after a big performance vs. Hillcrest dropping 25 PTS, 8 REB, 5 AST 🚀 @showtime_ki pic.twitter.com/yPD5psrm2m
— Overtime Elite (@OvertimeElite) November 29, 2022
4-Star 2024 Shooting Guard Paul McNeil Commits to NC State!
What a day! 4-Star 2024 Shooting Guard Paul McNeil (6’6″/185) wrapped up his Official Visit to NC State today by committing to run with the Wolfpack, after watching them defeat their rival UNC in PNC Arena.
@PackMensBball #Committed🐺🐺 pic.twitter.com/AiSg5h2wCg
— P2⚡️ (@PaulMcneilJr) February 19, 2023
McNeil is the #17 overall player nationally in the 2024 recruiting class according to ESPN, and the #2 player in the state of North Carolina.
In 2022-23, McNeil is averaging 23.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.4 steals per game for Richmond High School. Last year, he became the first ever Sophomore to win the Gatorade Player of the Year Award in the state of North Carolina.
McNeil also held offers from Clemson, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Alabama, Miami, Georgetown, St. John’s, LSU, Virginia Tech, Missouri, and others.
Top-25 2024 SG Paul McNeil is Taking an Official Visit to NC State Next Weekend
2024 4-Star Shooting Guard Paul McNeil (6’6″/185) will be taking an Official Visit to NC State next weekend.
I’m grateful to announce I will be taking an official visit to North Carolina State University this upcoming weekend. This is a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to spending time with Coach Keatts and the program. @PackMensBball @NCStateRivals
— P2⚡️ (@PaulMcneilJr) February 12, 2023
ESPN ranks McNeil as the #17 overall player nationally in the 2024 recruiting class, and the #2 player in the state of North Carolina. I don’t understand how recruiting databases work, but at some point this year he will be a 5-star player according to ESPN as long as he stays in the Top-25.
McNeil plays for Richmond Senior in Rockingham, North Carolina.
This is huge for NC State to get a player of McNeil’s caliber to come in for an Official Visit this early in the process.
@ProlificPrep @thegrindsession pic.twitter.com/i7mfsLZ4jN
— P2⚡️ (@PaulMcneilJr) November 14, 2022
4-Star G Austin Swartz Picks Up an Offer from NC State on Visit
4-Star 2024 Shooting Guard Austin Swartz (6’5″/180) took an unofficial visit to NC State yesterday, and he left with a scholarship offer.
2024 Cannon (NC) guard Austin Swartz will be on unofficial to NC State tonight as the Pack host Duke.
— Justin Byerly (@JustinByerly) January 4, 2023
I am blessed to receive an Offer from NC State🖤❤️ pic.twitter.com/CePMaPQPz7
— austin swartz (@austin_swartz23) January 5, 2023
Swartz plays for Cannon School in Concord, North Carolina. ON3 ranks him as the #65 overall player nationally in the 2024 recruiting class, and the #7 player in the state of North Carolina.
He already holds offers from Virginia Tech, Clemson, Georgia, Illinois, Houston and others.
Beginning of Junior Season pic.twitter.com/6BiDwYaNDU
— austin swartz (@austin_swartz23) December 5, 2022
View this post on Instagram
end of summer UAA highlights! pic.twitter.com/TJ5Znpsdus
— austin swartz (@austin_swartz23) August 16, 2022
UAA Session lll highlights pic.twitter.com/ek9blclwTY
— austin swartz (@austin_swartz23) July 12, 2022