Taco Bell Arena

Fans fill up Taco Bell Arena for the first sell out of the season on Jan. 13, 2018, for a game against San Diego State.

A key Boise State basketball recruiting target picked a rival Mountain West school Thursday.

Che Evans, a 6-foot-7 small forward from Neumann Goretti High School in Philadelphia, announced an oral commitment to San Diego State. His final two schools were the Aztecs and Broncos.

“This was a very hard decision because I loved the Boise official visit and also my home visit went very well,” Evans told Adam Zagoria of the recruiting website ZagsBlog. “Ultimately it came down to who I trusted the most and who will prepare me for my goal of a pro career.”

Evans, a four-star prospect, had offers from several big programs including Villanova, Florida, Ohio State, Georgetown and Texas Tech before narrowing his list to Boise State and San Diego State. That in itself should be considered a major milestone for the program.

But losing out on Evans surely stings for Boise State coach Leon Rice, considering San Diego State wasn’t even in the picture until assistant Chris Acker left the Broncos for the Aztecs in June. Acker had been recruiting Evans to Boise State, but offered him a scholarship at San Diego State two days after he took the job.

“Coach Acker was there before my injury as well as after and that meant a lot to me,” Evans said. “Coach Acker still said, ‘You’re my guy, and I know you are a Top 50 talent.’”

Rice and new Boise State assistant Ray-J Barsh traveled to Philadelphia earlier this week to meet with Evans and his family. He would have been one of the top-ranked recruits ever to pick the Broncos.

“Make no mistake, I love Coach Rice,” said Evans, who visited Boise last November. “He seemed genuine and it was a hard decision as you can tell. Coach Dutch (Brian Dutcher) closed the gap, explaining how I can fit and play immediately. He explained that they don’t have any impact transfers, yet Boise has two coming from the Pac-12 who already produced and are guaranteed to play most of the minutes.

“At San Diego State, I will get the opportunity to play immediately at small forward and some off guard as well. … The weather also factored. I definitely need the sun so that was a no-brainer.”

BRONCOS GET COMMITMENT FROM CENTER

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The loss of Evans was a little easier for the Broncos to take given the commitment four days earlier of 6-foot-11 center Burke Smith of Trinity Episcopal School in Richmond, Virginia.

Smith is an exceptional outside shooter for his size, but wasn’t heavily recruited by high major programs since he didn’t play on the popular AAU summer circuits. He had more than a dozen offers from mid-major schools mostly on the East Coast. His three finalists were Boise State, Rice and Ohio.

He visited Boise last weekend and attended the football game against Marshall. He also took a trip to the top of Table Rock.

“I got on campus and really liked the feel of the school and the campus and connected well with the players and coaches,” Smith told the Idaho Press. “I just fell in love with the place, the facilities and the plan the coaches have for me developmental wise.”

Smith is a raw player that figures to develop a lot in the next few years. Boise State has had a ton of success developing similar players in recent years, which he pointed to as a factor in his decision.

“Seeing what they’ve done with guys in the past, I can see them doing that with me and that was kind of why I picked them,” Smith said. “After watching a lot of their highlights and some past games, I just could tell it was a good fit.”

Asked to describe himself as a player, Smith said, “I’m just a skilled big guy that likes to make the team better.”

Rice can’t comment on a recruit until he signs with the school. Smith plans to sign with the Broncos during the early signing period in November. His commitment is non-binding until he signs, but basketball players flip schools at a much smaller rate than football prospects.

Smith is the first commitment for Boise State in the 2020 class, but they currently have three transfers that will sit out next season before being eligible to play during the 2020-21 season.

B.J. Rains is the Boise State beat writer for the Idaho Press and a two-time winner of the NSMA Idaho Sports Writer of the Year Award. Follow him on Twitter @BJRains.

B.J Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013. He is an Associated Press Top 25 men's basketball poll voter, and also contributes to KBOI-TV as a Boise State insider.

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