Former Belleville star Malachi Smith leaving Wright State, says he’s open to offers

In his first season of college basketball, Malachi Smith earned a place on the Horizon League All-Freshman Team and helped Wright State University to a bid in the National Invitational Tournament.

Now the former Belleville West and Belleville East standout says he’s leaving the Dayton, Ohio school.

Smith, a 6-foot-3 guard who helped West to its first state championship in 2017-18, announced his decision on Twitter, prefacing a prepared statement by commenting “please respect my decision.”

“I want to thank Wright State athletic department and coaching staff for all they have done for me during my first year of college basketball,” the statement said. “I’m beyond grateful for the memories I have made in such a short time here! After talking with my family, I have decided to ask for my release and will reopen my recruitment! this was a tough decision and I’m trusting GOD throughout this process. I will be forever thankful for the Wright State community. Joshua 1:9”

Smith averaged 5.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in his first year at Wright State. He was the Horizon League Freshman of the Week Jan. 11-17) when he scored a career-high 17 points with nine rebounds in a win at Youngstown State. He then averaged 9.1 points over the final seven games of the regular season.

Smith said he met with Raiders head coach Scott Nagy and expects him approve his release, which was formally submitted on Wednesday.

“I’m not disappointed or upset. It’s still a good program with a great staff,” Smith said. “The best way I can put it is that I didn’t feel like I fit. It was a hard decision to make, but I think it’ll prove to be the best thing for me.”

He added that he’ll focus his search for a new program on other Division I programs.

Wright State finished 21-14 overall and 13-5 in the Horizon League. The Raiders missed out on an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament when they lost the conference tournament championship game to Northern Kentucky. They then fell to Clemson in the first round of the NIT.

Head coach Scott Nagy rotated players through a deep roster which included seven players that averaged more than 23 minutes per game. Though he saw periods of extended play at times, Smith averaged 15.1 minutes. His 28 steals were third most on the team, and his 60 assists were fourth.

“I’m a competitor and want to play as much as I can,” Smith said. “But I understand that you have to earn your minutes. I don’t want to be given anything.”

Smith spent his first three seasons playing at Belleville East. After averaging 12 points per game his junior season — and sharing the floor with current University of Missouri guard Javon Pickett — Smith made the cross-town move to West for his senior year. Paired with two-time Mr. Illinois Basketball EJ Liddell, Smith scored 15.3 points per game, shooting 35-for-86 (40.7 percent) from three-point range.

BND Assigning News Editor Todd Eschman has won numerous state and regional awards for his columns, feature stories and news reporting. He was born and raised in Belleville, attended SIU-Carbondale, and is a member of the BBWAA, SABR and St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame.