News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 29, 2013

Rhett Smith departs ISU; Lansing turns down Drake offer

Todd Golden
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — When a player leaves a college basketball program, it usually goes one of two ways. It’s amicable or contentious.

Rhett Smith’s departure from Indiana State’s program would be filed under the former category.

ISU coach Greg Lansing and Smith met earlier this week and the two decided to part company. It was a mutual decision as the Sullivan native played sparingly during his freshman season with the Sycamores.

“Scholarships are a one-year renewal deal. With our roster and the way things project out, we felt it was best. Rhett felt it was best as well. He wanted to get the chance to play,” Lansing said.

Smith, a 6-foot-7 forward, played in 11 games for the Sycamores, but only accrued 19 minutes. He did not score and took just one shot.

Smith admitted that it was hard to sit through the season, especially after he had been such a mainstay with Sullivan’s powerful teams from 2008-12.

“It was really a matter of me wanting to be able to play. This year was kind of hard on me. I think I’ll enjoy it more if I’m in a situation where I get a chance to play. With everyone coming back [on the ISU roster] next year, it wasn’t looking like I was going to get more playing time,” Smith said.

Smith said he’d likely seek a new home somewhere lower than Division I. He indicated he didn’t want to have to worry about sitting out a year. He said he’s already entertained some offers.

Smith also insisted that despite the lack of playing time, his lone season with the Sycamores will help him in the long run. He remains on good terms with the team.

“Honestly, it was really a beneficial year. I learned a ton, especially from a work ethic standpoint to play at a high level. I should be good to go when I play at a different level,” Smith said.

Smith’s departure opens up a scholarship for ISU to use for next season. Lansing said the Sycamores will bide their time. The Sycamores could seek a four-year late-signee, a junior college player or a Division I transfer. It’s possible, though unlikely, that the team could wait to use its scholarship at a later date.

“We’ll look for the best available player. We’re in a position with our entire team returning that we don’t have to rush into anything. All options are open,” Lansing said.

Keeping the options open extends to any specific team needs.

“With our team chemistry being good, we want someone who will be a good fit. I don’t think we have any specific needs. Each of [ISU’s current players] has to get better. To bring someone into the fold, I think we’re wide-open on who it could be position-wise,” Lansing said.

• Drake spurned — The Des Moines Register reported on Tuesday that Lansing was offered the then-open Drake head coaching position. Mark Phelps was fired from the job on March 14.

Lansing confirmed that Drake offered him the position. Lansing didn’t feel right, however, about moving from one Missouri Valley Conference school to another, even though Drake is located in Des Moines, where Lansing coached in high school and where his parents currently live.

“It’s a weird thing. We’re within the same conference. Their AD [Sandy Hatfield Clubb] knows me and knows my family is there, and they made a push. I just couldn’t see myself doing it. I’m an Iowa guy, but I like what we have going here,” Lansing said.

Former Utah head coach Ray Giacoletti was hired by Drake on Thursday.

The stars are aligned in ISU’s favor right now as far as competitiveness on the court. With no one graduating, ISU projects as a MVC title contender in 2014.

Drake loses senior starters Jordan Clarke and Ben Simons. All-MVC freshman Micah Mason also left the program for family reasons. The Bulldogs figure to be in rebuild mode next season.

“I’m excited about our team here. We have a commitment from Ron Prettyman [ISU Director of Athletics] and Dr. [Daniel] Bradley [ISU President} to do everything in their power to help us succeed. I don’t know why I’d want to do something like [switch jobs]. I’m energized about what we can do here next year,” Lansing said.