For those outside the Florida Panhandle, it’s becoming difficult to ignore the buzz growing around Diante Smith.
A star forward for the state runner-up Choctaw basketball team, Smith has seen his stock soar since his junior season ended in March. He was named First Team All-State by the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches, and he has picked up 17 of his 20 college scholarship offers since the Indians fell to Doral Academy in the state title game, according to 247sports.
This past week, he added another important distinction, joining a prestigious group of basketball players in attending the National Basketball Players Association Top 100 Camp at the University of Virginia’s campus in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“It is a huge honor to be able to attend this,” Choctaw coach Andy Thigpen said.
The NBPA created the camp in 1994 “to assist elite high school student-athletes in the development of their basketball and life skills,” according to the camp’s website. It’s alumni include New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, two-time MVP and Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry and Warriors forward Kevin Durant, Smith’s favorite player.
“It means a lot,” Smith said of being selected to attend the camp. “It means a lot. I feel like my hard work that I do — I deserve to be here. I worked hard enough through year.”
After averaging 17.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game during his junior season with the Indians and tearing up the AAU circuit through the spring and early part of the summer, Smith said his AAU coach helped him earn a roster spot for the camp, which began Tuesday.
In addition to the traditional skills workshops and scrimmages, the Top 100 Camp offers its players the chance to work with current and former NBA players, who step into mentorship roles.
A four-time All-Star and 2008 NBA Champion with the Boston Celtics, Rajon Rondo is helming Smith’s team.
“He’s good,” Smith said. “He’s very funny and he likes to play fast, up tempo.”
Smith’s team for the week is diverse, including players from California, Georgia, Cleveland, Arkansas and Arizona. There’s been little in the way of bonding through his first two days, but Smith and his teammates have been lighting up the competition, winning their game Wednesday afternoon by “like 30,” Smith said.
When the camp wraps up Sunday, Smith said he hopes to have garnered more national recognition from both college and pro scouts, but he is enjoying the competition in the meantime.
“I feel like it helps me play up to my potential,” Smith said.
If the camp invite is any indication, that potential could eventually be worthy of the NBA.