Q&A with top-five junior Jabari Smith
One of the top forward prospects in high school basketball, this spring was the time that Jabari Smith was expected to be cementing his standing as one of the faces of his 2021 graduating class. Instead, the coronavirus has halted his travel ball plans, though his recruitment has remained steady throughout.
In our latest Q&A with the five-star Smith, he discussed how he is remaining active this spring and the various suitors chasing after his ultimate commitment. Plus, he opens up about the latest blue blood to express interest in him, when he might commit and his thoughts about all that the G-League is now offering to prospects just like him.
Corey Evans (CE): You are supposed to be in the middle of your senior travel season but because of the pandemic, things remain shut down. What have you been doing to stay active?
Jabari Smith (JS): I actually have been still getting into the gym and doing a lot of conditioning, working on my body and eating right. Just making sure I am ready whenever things start back up.
CE: How has recruiting been for you in the meantime? Has everyone remained active with you despite this all?
JS: It hasn’t been any new schools that have jumped in except for maybe North Carolina. They have shown some interest but outside of that, no others have really jumped in. I wouldn’t say any schools backed off but it is more of the same schools that have been with me and on me the hardest.
CE: Who are those couple of schools then?
CE: You visited Tennessee officially this winter, which was the first that you took in such a type so far, but what did you think of that trip?
JS: It was pretty cool and it was better than I had expected for it to be. The coaching staff was really cool, I got to talk with a few of the players and they had good things to say about the coach, and overall, it was just a good visit. The area was nice and the feeling that I had while I was there, it was good so it was just pretty cool.
CE: What has been there primary sell with you? I know development is a key facet of that program and it rings true with you.
JS: Just that I would be able to show off various parts to my game if I were to go there and that the fan base, they have one of the biggest arenas in all of college basketball and just how they market their athletes there. They have also pitched a few others players that I might have the chance to play with and how he (Rick Barnes) coached Kevin Durant and that I have a game that is similar to his.
CE: You also visited Auburn unofficially and they have had great success in Atlanta, so what are your thoughts about that program?
JS: They are always known for getting Georgia guys and just recently started to win with them. I honestly think their program is headed to be one of the powerhouses and they get a lot of guys from Georgia and who wouldn’t want to play with someone like Sharife Cooper, one of the best point guards in the country. Just him going there, and they got JT (Thor), too, so the caliber of players they’re getting is really good and the coaching staff is great. It just felt like it was exploding whenever I was there.
CE: How about LSU? We have discussed in the past following in your dad’s footsteps by playing there, as well. What are your feelings for them?
JS: My dad has always said that this is my decision but honestly, I haven’t been down there to visit. I have talked to Coach (Will) Wade but I haven’t had the chance to get onto campus and see what it is like. They did have Naz Reid and I like to look at schools that had players similar to who I am so they had Naz, and have been winning recently and their program is looking really good.
CE: Ole Miss is making a run at things with you so what are your feelings about them and what do you know about the program?
JS: They are kind of like LSU where I don’t know a lot about them but Kermit (Davis) was on the coaching staff there whenever they were recruiting my dad so he always tells me stories about my dad and my dad tells me good stories about him. I think that is the biggest part that stands out about them.
CE: How about Georgia Tech? They have gotten better at getting the best in the state and have the chance to return to the NCAA Tournament next season.
JS: One thing is that it is right up the street; it is like a 45-minute drive from my house, if that, so it is right there. They are in the ACC and I wouldn’t have to go far to play in a big-time conference and Coach (Josh) Pastner, they were off to a really good year before it ended and they had some big wins this year. Some of the assistants know my dad well so it has been pretty cool.
CE: Georgia is another that has made it a priority to keep the best in the state. What do you think about Tom Crean and what they are doing over there?
JS: Coach Crean, he is a great coach from what I hear. They do say that he is kind of crazy but I would rather have a coach that is kind of crazy rather than being laid back and doesn’t care about you and won’t help you to get your game better. I think that is big with someone that will be on me whenever I go to school. It is in Georgia and just like Ant-Man (Anthony Edwards), him having the chance to be the first overall pick and being able to rep your home state, that is just a good feeling.
CE: Lastly, you brought up North Carolina and their recent interest in you. What all have they been telling you?
JS: They have just been telling me how they win down there and that they get a lot of guys to the league. They just say stuff like that and the pedigree of the coaching staff and the fans there.
CE: What have they told you as far as getting an offer?
JS: I am not sure. I am supposed to talk with Coach (Roy) Williams soon but he hasn’t given me a call yet so I haven’t been able to talk to him. Whenever I do, I should know how close I am to getting the offer.
CE: You’ve taken one official visit so far to Tennessee and can’t really do a whole lot until June 1, at the earliest. How do you want all this to play out from this day forward?
JS: Basically, I was going to take some visits this summer and in the early fall whenever school started back up. I was supposed to take one before this whole corona thing popped up; I was supposed to go to LSU but that didn’t happen. I am just trying to take it slow and look at every school and I think of everyone the same. I don’t think that I have a commitment happening any time soon. It is just a tough decision. All of the schools offer great opportunities and there isn’t really one school that pops out like that.
CE: Do you want to get it done before senior year? Do you want to sign early? Do you want to hold out until the spring to do that?
JS: I never really thought about that but I know most kids do it before their senior year starts so they don’t have to worry about going through the high school season but I don’t want to rush it and make the wrong decision. I just want to take it slow, talk to my family about it and see how it plays out.
CE: Before I let you go, the G-League has become a heavily discussed situation in recent weeks. What all do you know about the new pathway and would that interest you at all?
JS: Honestly, I don’t know much about it but nobody has talked to me about it but it seems like a good opportunity where you can get the feel for where I want to play at and where I want to be at. It isn’t the full experience but it is close to it. I feel like it is a different situation for everybody. If that opportunity comes into play, we will just have to see how it goes.