Later this year, Tirus Smith will suit up for his fourth basketball team in as many years. A former Petal standout, Smith signed with UTEP straight out of high school in 2016, and after one season with the Miners, the 6-foot-8 forward transferred home to Jones College, where he started 23 games this past season. After averaging nine points and five rebounds for the Bobcats, Smith is, once again, Division I bound. With two years of eligibility remaining, he officially signed with the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns on Wednesday.
Though the last four years have been somewhat of a whirlwind for him, Smith says he wouldn’t change a thing about it, calling his journey to Lafayette, Louisiana “God’s plan”.
“They [Louisiana] had recruited me once in high school,” Smith said. “So now that the opportunity came back around, I said ‘Maybe that’s God telling me something’.
“I had a great experience out there at UTEP and a great experience here at Jones. At the end of the day, I feel like I’m on track to what God has intended for me and what he has in store for me.”
Smith chose the Ragin’ Cajuns over nearly 15 other schools, many of which did not recruit him out of Petal. He believes having both Division I and Juco experience on his resume payed big dividends the second go-round.
“It made me more marketable,” Smith said. “Coaches were more willing to come and see me because I had another year of experience and my game matured.
“In one year at Jones, I feel like I got a lot smarter with just my basketball IQ and a lot of little things and focusing on attention to detail. Coach [Randy] Bolden did a real good job, and I feel like I got mentally stronger this year, just with a lot of him pushing us every day and my teammates pushing me every day.”
Though many schools were hot on his tail, Smith says he put off his recruitment for as long as he could while in Ellisville, placing his full focus on trying to help the Bobcats win a state title and achieve the rest of their goals.
“But once it came time for it, it gets pretty hectic when you start narrowing that list down of things you’re looking for,” he said. “You try to please a lot of people, and it’s hard to please everybody. But at the end of the day, it’s your decision, and you gotta do what’s best for you.”
Before his recruitment, Smith learned a little about Louisiana’s program through Elfrid Payton Elite, an AAU program in New Orleans. There, Bryce Washington, a former Ragin’ Cajun, took Smith and company through workouts, and Smith walked away impressed.
“I was like ‘He learned all that under that coach [Bob Marlin], so he can teach me those same things’.”
In addition to Washington, Marlin, who is entering his 11th season at the helm, also coached current New Orleans Pelican guard Elfrid Payton, the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Marlin’s Ragin’ Cajuns have averaged 22 wins a season in the last five years, using a style of play and system that has Smith excited.
“The main thing was finding where I’ll fit in and be able to showcase the things that I’m capable of doing,” he said. “They told me I’m gonna have the opportunity to come in and start immediately and play a lot of minutes. I’m really just looking for the opportunity. As long as you give me the opportunity, I’m gonna go out there and make the best of it.”