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Published: Saturday, 8/4/2007

Whitmer s Smith commits to play at Purdue

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Whitmer s Ryne Smith drives to the basket against St. John s in a game last season. Smith,6-foot-3, 170 pounds, averaged 17.4 points as a junior for the 12-9 Panthers. Whitmer s Ryne Smith drives to the basket against St. John s in a game last season. Smith,6-foot-3, 170 pounds, averaged 17.4 points as a junior for the 12-9 Panthers.
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Like sister, like brother.

Ryne Smith, who will be a senior at Whitmer this fall, has made a verbal commitment to continue his basketball career in the state of Indiana on scholarship at Purdue.

The 6-foot-3, 170-pound guard earned second-team All-City League honors as a junior for the 2006-07 season, when he averaged 17.4 points and 3.1 rebounds a game for the 12-9 Panthers.

Smith s elder sister, Nikki, who starred on the Northview girls team which advanced to the Division I state final four in 2004, will be a senior at Indiana for the 2007-08 season.

A two-year starter, Nikki Smith led the Hoosier women s team in scoring last season at 12.0 points a game.

Their father is longtime Whitmer boys basketball head coach Bruce Smith.

It s extremely rewarding, coach Smith said, because, as a parent, you stress Keep your mouth shut, work as hard as you can, and good things will happen. At the end of Ryne s junior year he was a second-teamer in our league, which was accurate and legitimate. To go from that, to the possibilities that are going to be afforded him now, is a product of the work he has put into it.

He s going to have a great educational opportunity at Purdue, as well as a chance to play in one of the best conferences in the country.

Ryne Smith said he received a scholarship offer from Purdue head coach Matt Painter during an unofficial visit to the West Lafayette campus on Thursday.

Painter, who guided the Boilermakers to a 22-12 record and second-round NCAA tournament advancement last season, didn t have to wait long for an answer from Whitmer s sharpshooting guard. Smith called Painter back Thursday night to make his commitment.

Smith had close to 20 other offers from Division I schools, including Mississippi from the Southeastern Conference, and Mid-American Conference schools Bowling Green, Akron, Kent State, Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan.

Not highly recruited before the summer AAU season, Smith said he felt he made his biggest impression on recruiters during a tournament in Cincinnati July 6-9, especially after he had a superb game for his Ohio Gators team in an upset of a highly regarded team from Texas.

I knew, if I wanted to go to a school like [Purdue], I d have to have a great summer, Ryne Smith said. I do, honestly, think I did have a great summer, and it has really paid off. I handled the ball better than I thought I could, and I took the ball to the basket better. I actually did surprise myself with how I played.

Bruce Smith was also pleasantly surprised by his son s level of improvement.

A lot of people are not in favor of AAU basketball, coach Smith said. But, in order to be seen by college coaches, you must participate in it. Ryne had two college offers heading into the live recruiting period in July. Within two weeks he had 20. That tells you things went pretty well for him in July.

Purdue basketball is also much improved.

After winning just nine games overall in his first season with the Boilermakers in 2005-06, Painter s team placed fourth in the Big Ten at 9-7 last season, and led eventual repeat NCAA champion Florida 31-29 at halftime before falling 74-67 in their second-round tourney matchup.

It s an honor to go to basketball country [Indiana] to play, and to play at the school that is the arch-rival of my sister s school, Ryne Smith said. I really like coach Painter, and I got a chance to hang out with some of the players. I really liked the campus and it seemed like a good fit for me, so I wanted to take advantage of the offer.

Smith, who has started for Whtimer since midway through his freshman year, said he is also pleased to have his college decision made earlier than expected.

I definitely wanted to get this out of the way so I could focus on playing my senior season, he said.

One of Smith s basketball teammates at Whitmer, two-year starter Kevin Koger, recently committed to play football at Michigan. Koger, an All-Ohio selection at defensive end as a junior, is projected to be a tight end for the Wolverines.

Contact Steve Junga at:sjunga@theblade.comor 419-724-6461.



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