By Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK — Thanks to his consistent elevated performances on the biggest national stages of high school basketball spanning the past year, 2022 Arkansas signee Nick Smith, Jr., has reached the pinnacle as he was bumped up to the No. 1 player in the nation by 247Sports in its updated prospect rankings that were released on Wednesday.

Smith (6-5 combo guard, North Little Rock) becomes the highest rated in-state high school basketball player ever and the highest-rated Razorbacks recruit ever. In addition to his rise to the top of the 247Sports rankings, Smith saw his stock soar to No. 2 in both Sports Illustrated’s and Rivals’ final rankings and No. 3 in ESPN’s final rankings. He was also named national first team high school All American by Naismith and Sports Illustrated.

Named the most valuable player in the prestigious Jordan Brand Classic all-star game in Chicago in April — he finished with a game-high 27 points (7-of-13 field goals, including 5-of-7 from 3, and 8-of-8 free throws) go with 4 assists and 3 rebounds — Smith also had memorable, needle-moving showings in front of prospect evaluators including NBA scouts during multi-day events surrounding the McDonald’s All American game and the Nike Hoop Summit a few weeks ago.

Smith on Tuesday was among 27 players representing the 2022, 2023, and 2024 classes — including fellow 2022 5-star Future Hogs Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh — to be invited to 2022 USA Basketball Men’s U18 FIBA Americas Championship National Team training camp that runs May 26-June 2 in Houston.

According to the most recent ESPN / DraftExpress 2023 NBA Mock Draft released last week, Smith is projected to be the No. 3 overall selection as well as the top player picked from the 2022 class.

Smith is the headliner of the Hogs’ decorated recruiting class that is ranked No. 2 nationally in 2022. He is one of three 5-star Arkansas signees among six Top 100 recruits.

A dynamic alpha-scorer and plus-facilitator, Smith is arguably the best player in the nation regardless of classification. His combination of skill, length, energy, competitiveness, clutch gene, and drive to win place him ahead of the pack.