May 15, 2006
PORTLAND, Ore. - The University of Portland men's basketball team has signed Taishi Ito and Robin Smeulders to National Letters of Intent, first-year head coach Eric Reveno announced on Thursday. Ito and Smeulders will join the Pilots' roster for the 2006-07 season along with previously signed junior college transfer Walter Thompson. Justin Johnson, who was signed during the early signing period in November, has been released from his letter of intent and will pursue other educational opportunities.
Taishi Ito (6-0, 170) comes to The Bluff from one of the most successful high school basketball programs in the country, Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md. A native of Japan, Ito came to attend high school in the United States and earned the starting point guard position as a sophomore for the Mustangs. He was a three-year starter under two-time national high school coach of the year Stu Vetter.
Montrose was the USA Today preseason No. 1 team in the nation entering the 2005-06 season and finished ranked No. 9 with a 20-2 overall record. During Ito's three seasons, Montrose compiled a 68-9 overall record, was nationally ranked all three years, and played in numerous elite national tournaments. The team competed in the Iolani Classic (Honolulu, Hawaii), the Les Schwab Invitational (Portland, Ore.), and played multiple nationally recognized prep teams in the Washington D.C. area. Ito and Montrose dealt then-No. 1 Oak Hill Academy its only loss of the season, a 74-72 victory to end the regular season in March.
Ito was named a Washington D.C. area top 22 prospect among the class of 2006 according to the Washington Post and also earned All-Metro and all-league status from the Post as a senior. He averaged 10.1 points and 6.5 assists as a junior and 6.6 points and 4.9 assists his senior year, earning an invitation to the 2006 Capital Classic High School All Star Game. He has been rated as high as the No. 170 national recruit according to Galaxy of Stars' Prep Basketball Magazine.
"Taishi is a versatile point guard who has unmatched high school experience playing for Montrose Christian and Coach Vetter," Reveno said. "He has played at and won at the highest level of prep competition and will bring a pedigree of toughness and hard work to our program. Combine that with his high level of achievement in the classroom and he is a perfect for for the University of Portland."
Robin Smeulders (6-9, 200) is a versatile athlete who can play either of the forward positions. Smeulders is a native of the Netherlands and has played club basketball for SG Braunschweig in the 2.Bundesliga (German Second Division) the last two seasons. He is a member of the Under-20 Dutch National Team and also played with the U-18 Dutch National Team.
Smeulders was the third youngest member of Braunschweig during the 2005-06 season, yet played nearly 19 minutes per game and averaged 5.8 points and 4.1 rebounds. He posted season-highs of 19 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks for Braunschweig. For the season, Smeulders shot 49 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 71 percent from the foul line.
"Robin has a very strong love for basketball and has a lot of motivation to become a good player," Braunschweig head coach Liviu Calin said. "Every year he has progressed more than other players and is one of the biggest talents in Germany for his age."
During the 2003-04 season, Smeulders took part in a study abroad program and spent the school year at Ka'ahumanu Hou High School in Maui, Hawai'i.
"Robin is quality athlete who has played against tough competition with both his German club program and Dutch national teams," Reveno said. "His international experiences have prepared him well to make the transition to college basketball and we are excited about his potential."