Michigan lands Columbia grad transfer Mike Smith, nation's No. 6 scorer

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

One day after missing out on an Ivy League graduate transfer, Michigan landed another.

Columbia’s Mike Smith announced on Friday his next stop will be Ann Arbor, where he will help fill the void at point guard with the departures of Zavier Simpson (graduation) and David DeJulius (transfer).

Smith, a native of Burr Ridge, Illinois, was also receiving interest from Arizona, Gonzaga and Seton Hall, who beat out Michigan for Harvard point guard Bryce Aiken.

Mike Smith scored 1,653 points during his career at Columbia.

"It’s a combination of a lot of things of why I picked Michigan, but I think that Coach (Juwan) Howard is doing something real special over at Michigan and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to be a part of it,” Smith told 247Sports.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, one of Smith’s mentors and friends is Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler. When the two talked, Butler would always bring up the “Miami Heat way” and how that fueled the franchise’s consistent success.

That caught Smith’s attention and he noticed how it was starting to take shape at Michigan under Howard, who served as an assistant coach on the Heat staff for six seasons.

“You could tell they (Michigan) had that Heat culture in that they would always just find a way to win,” Smith told the Sun Times. “I like that a lot. You can’t beat that, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Smith (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) was rated No. 11 and No. 14, respectively, on ESPN's and Stadium's lists of immediately eligible transfers. While there may be concerns about his size and questions about how his defense will translate at the Big Ten level, he has proven to be a high-level scorer and shot creator.

He ranked sixth in the nation in scoring with 22.8 points per game last season. He also averaged 4.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds and shot 33.9% from 3-point range over 30 games to earn All-Ivy League second-team honors.

Smith, who missed most of his junior year with a torn meniscus, averaged 18 points, 4.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds in his four seasons at Columbia. He also shot 33.1% on 3-pointers and 82.8% on free throws for his career and finished with 1,653 points.

He’ll provide Howard with a dynamic scoring option at a position that needed depth and has plenty of minutes — and a starting role — up for grabs. Smith will join a backcourt mix that includes senior-to-be Eli Brooks, incoming freshman Zeb Jackson and walk-on Brandon Wade.

Smith is the second grad transfer point guard the Wolverines have landed in four seasons, along with Jaaron Simmons, who is now a graduate manager on the staff. Unlike Simmons, Smith already had a connection to Michigan before joining the team. He played with current Wolverine and walk-on forward Jaron Faulds at Columbia during the 2017-18 season.

With the addition of Smith, Michigan will be bringing one of the top grad transfers and one of the top recruiting classes into the fold next season. The Wolverines have one available scholarship remaining for 2020-21, and they are still in the mix for five-star guard Joshua Christopher and five-star forward Greg Brown.

“My goal is to bring a championship to Ann Arbor,” Smith told the Sun Times. “I think with the returning players and the players coming in, along with the culture Coach Howard is building, that’s possible.”

DeJulius announced on Twitter Friday he was down to four schools — Cincinnati, Marquette, Missouri and Iowa State — which he’s considering transferring to.


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins