DANVILLE — Before last season, the name Denzel Smith probably didn’t mean a whole lot in the prep boys basketball world.
But with a breakout season during his junior year, Smith all of the sudden started popping up on the radars of a lot of basketball experts.
So, this season, the Danville senior was a marked man in every game for the Vikings and Smith rose to the occasion.
The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 22.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game as he led the Vikings (11-17) to within one victory of an IHSA Class 4A regional title this season. For his efforts, Smith has been named the Commercial-News Player of the Year. It’s the second straight season that he has earned the honor.
“It really was a great season,’’ said Smith, an honorable mention Class 4A all-state performer. “It started off a little rough, but we ended it really strong.
“Individually, I had a real good season, but I try not to think about myself. I would rather think about my teammates and my coach.’’
And that was never more true than during the regional tournament at Normal Community. Smith averaged 27.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, including a 33-point, 12-rebound game in Danville’s win over the top-seeded Bradley-Bourbonnais Boilermakers.
“I really didn’t care how many points I scored in a game as long as we won. I could have scored just two points and been very happy if we won,’’ he said. “The way that we played at the end of the year was as much fun as I had in any game during my career.’’
And that includes a 40-point, 17-rebound game, both career highs, in Danville’s 70-63 win over Cahokia at the Lincoln Holiday Tournament.
“He grew up. He worked harder and he was more consistent this season,’’ said Danville coach Ted Houpt. “He also had some big games in his junior season and then he also had games where he disappeared.