Sophomore point guard Mike Smith’s relationship with NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler, documented in the recent Sports Illustrated article can be traced back to a simple question.

“New Balance or Sketchers?”

Smith, who says he was normally shy around big-time athletes, mustered up the confidence to ask Jimmy Butler that “goofy” question when Butler visited his high school, Fenwick, for a Jordan brand event in 2016. Then he asked him a not so goofy question – if he could work out with the then Chicago Bull.

“Usually, I would never do that,” Smith said. “But something told me to."

The next day, Smith was at the Bulls training center, and the relationship between the two has grown ever since. His decision paid off. Smith spent half the summer with Butler in Los Angeles training alongside him and other NBA athletes who were in town, like Dwyane Wade, Mike Conley and Victor Oladipo. His day-to-day involved going one-on-one with his mentor.

“I had to guard a 6-8 NBA All-Star, and play against him, a two-way Defensive Player of the Year caliber player,” Smith said about Butler. “I really wasn’t a great defensive player last year and this summer I improved and learned some things from them.”

Most of all, Smith said his confidence grew immensely this summer.

“If I can score and win one-on-one's against top players and top defenders, then I think I can play against anybody really,” he said.

Smith posing with Mark Wahlberg.

One of the days, in between two-a-day workout sessions and pick up games, Butler and Smith took a trip to Beverly Hills. Butler threw Smith the keys to his truck and directed Smith where to go. The next thing you know, Smith was giving his ID to a security guard at the gate of Academy Award-nominated actor Mark Wahlberg’s house.

“I’m not a fan type of person but in my head, I was like ‘Oh my god we’re going to Mark Wahlberg’s,'” Smith recalled. “The next day I was watching Transformers and I was like ‘Yeah, I met him.'”

That day highlighted what Smith says is the most important thing that Butler has taught him, “Live life to the fullest, have fun and have a great circle of people around you.”

“He had a rough childhood and a rough story, but ultimately he overcame that and now he is one of the best players in the league,” Smith said.

He may be one of the best players in the league, but Smith jokes he's still not his favorite. To him, Jimmy's just a great friend.