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April 1, 2013

NU lands fourth commit of 2013 in juco Smith

When Leslee Smith left Lincoln following his three-day official visit to Nebraska last week, he made it seem that it was only a matter of time before he made his commitment to the Huskers official.

After taking this past weekend to think it over, the 2013 power forward from Seward County (Kan.) Community College officially pulled the trigger on Monday morning, giving NU a verbal commitment.

The 6-foot-8, 250-pound Smith becomes the fourth member of Nebraska's 2013 recruiting class, joining the likes of Tai Webster, Nick Fuller and Nathan Hawkins. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining, and the Huskers now have just one remaining scholarship for the '13 class.

When HuskerOnline.com spoke with Smith on Friday after his visit to NU had wrapped up, he said he Huskers had always been his favorite since lead recruiter Ben Johnson first made contact with him a few months ago and head coach Tim Miles eventually extended an offer back on March 10.

On Monday, Smith said he saw and heard everything he needed to during his time in Lincoln, and it was pretty much a no-brainer to make Nebraska his next home after his visit.

"Before I went there, I was real curious about everything," Smith said. "I already knew about the facilities, and everything was nice, but I just wanted to get in touch with the coaches and the players and see how I'd interact with them. That was a big deal for me. It went well. The atmosphere is lovely. It was very warm and welcoming. When I got there, I was with the players and they were treating me like I was one of the players. It was just a great experience.

"But the thing that really sold me was when I spoke to the head coach, Coach Miles, and we sat down and had our meeting. He told me the things he expects of me and what I can bring to the table, and he really felt I could be a big part of what's going to happen in the next two years. That kind of really sold me."

A native of the British Virgin Islands, Smith said he plans to enroll at Nebraska for the first summer school session in June to get a jump start on his new life as a Husker. However, there's a chance he might take a bit of a break in July if he ends up playing for the Virgin Islands national team in an International Basketball Federation (FIBA) tournament in the Caribbean in July. If he does play, Smith said he would be back in Lincoln in plenty of time for the start of the fall semester.

"These next two years are really important to me, so I want to get in and do as much work as possible early," Smith said. "I want get my body and my game right and just be well prepared for the upcoming season."

Smith originally committed to Southern Methodist coming out of Christian Life Center Academy in Humble, Texas, in 2010. After redshirting his first season in 2010-11 and playing one year as a redshirt freshman in '11-'12, Smith transferred from SMU when Larry Brown took over the program. He opted to enroll at Seward County, where he averaged 8.3 points and 6.6 rebounds in roughly 20 minutes per game to help the Saints to a 25-8 record last season.

Miles told Smith during his visit that his size and surprising versatility make him a near perfect fit for what Nebraska is looking for in a power forward.

"I really wanted to know how I fit in with the program and what was my purpose of being recruited and stuff like that," Smith said on Friday. "(Miles) said he was recruiting me to be like a double-double forward, a four man who could play the outside and inside and could do it all. That was some of the things he was telling me about, just how he wants his four man to play. He showed me how the offense goes, and I really like how he runs his offense. I think I fit in perfect."

There had been some concerns about the status of Smith's knee, as he tore his ACL during a pick-up game shortly after his first season at SMU. He was originally expected to miss a full year of action, but Smith worked his way back onto the court for his redshirt freshman season.

Looking back, though, he said he probably returned to action too quickly, as his knee would get so sore after games that he would have to sit out the next day or two of practice. He said his knee only bothers him right after games now, and it doesn't affect him at all on the court.

"It bothers me a little bit, but I've learned to play through it," Smith said. "It only hurts like after the game. That's typical for someone coming off an ACL injury. It doesn't hurt nearly as much as it did when I first came back."

The only other school Smith was considering prior to his commitment was Saint Louis, who recently offered and was just in to see him last Tuesday before he left for Lincoln. However, Smith said the Billikens were always quite a ways behind Nebraska, especially after his experience during last week's visit.

Smith's commitment also helps ease the blow of missing out on 2013 power forward Matthew Atewe of Notre Dame (Mass.) Prep, who committed to Auburn over NU on Saturday.

"(The coaches) were all excited when I told them," Smith said. "They were happy for me and the team and for them. They're really looking forward to the future, and they said they can't wait for me to get on campus this summer."

With one open scholarship remaining, one of the top targets now becomes forward Sai Tummala of Salt Lake (Utah) Community College. Tummala picked up an offer from the Huskers last month, and he told HuskerOnline.com over the weekend that he was close to setting up a visit.

"I haven't set up my visits yet, but I will be making that decision this week," Tummala said via text message. "I've been talking to Coach Miles more and I've liked everything about Nebraska so far."


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