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IU signee Justin Smith shows off his athleticism at the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic



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Justin Smith, a forward in IU's 2017 recruiting class, attempts a layup against two members of team Thunder during the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic on Saturday night in Louisville, Kentucky.  Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

LOUSIVILLE, Ky. — The dunks came easy for IU signee Justin Smith.

The high-flying class-of-2017 forward from Illinois competed in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic and its dunk contest just days after reaffirming his commitment to IU.

Smith threw down dazzling dunks that wowed the dunk contest judges and showed off his athleticism in-game. Five of his seven made shots were dunks.

Fellow IU signee Al Durham, a guard from Georgia, joined Smith for the weekend in Louisville, Kentucky, and Smith said the pair had fun.

“Good experience being able to come out here and play with these guys and get to know Al a little bit better,” Smith said. “So it was a good weekend.”

In 20 minutes of action, Smith finished with 15 points and four rebounds. He was seven of 13 from the field and made nearly 70 percent of his two-point shots. He came in second in the dunk contest behind Texas A&M signee Savion Flagg.

Durham and Smith played together on team Lightning, which emerged victorious. Their early chemistry was on display, and Durham consistently found Smith for lob dunks. Durham said he learned a lot about Smith through the event.

“He’s very athletic,” Durham said. “He can get out and run with me. I can find him on the wing, and he can shoot, so there’s a lot of things that he can do that can make my game much easier by getting him the ball.”

Smith originally committed to IU late in September of 2016, but with the coaching change, he needed to meet with new IU Coach Archie Miller. Miller met with Smith’s family early last week for a two- to three-hour meeting in which Miller laid out his vision for the program. Smith said he liked what he heard and reaffirmed his commitment.

One facet of Miller's personality stuck out to Smith in particular.

“That he will do anything possible to win, and that’s what I’m looking forward to the most is winning,” Smith said. “So that just stuck out in my mind and really reaffirmed my choice.”

Smith said he likes Miller based on their interactions so far.

“He’s intense, and that’s good," Smith that’s good to have. That’s how you win,” Smith said.

As a senior in high school, he averaged 21.7 points per game and 10 rebounds, but he said he realizes that he needs to continue to grow before he arrives at IU in June.

“I need to get better at just about everything,” Smith said. “Shooting, dribbling, defense, strength. I just have to get ready for the next level, so that’s probably what I’m going to focus on the next couple months.”


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