In the first article I ever wrote on this page, Jabari Smith Jr. was a featured player. He was a rising sophomore at the South Atlanta Fall Showcase with an abundance of size, skill, and potential. Fast-forward to now, and you find a mature basketball player, with a wealth of accomplishments and accolades including consensus Top-5 player in the Class of 2021 and USA Basketball Gold Medalist just to name a few. This article/interview means a lot because I can say I watched a player develop and grow right before my eye. Not a bad way to start on the grassroots side of scouting.
Now to my conversation with C/O 2021 Forward out of Sandy Creek High School (GA) Jabari Smith Jr. in Q&A form:
Q: Tell me about your upbringing, where are you from originally?
A: I was born in Atlanta and grew up in the Douglasville Area.
Q: Who’s your support system?
A: I would say my mom, my dad, brother, and my grandma, auntie, and cousin.
Q: Do you have any siblings?
A: I have a 22-year-old brother who I'm very close too.
Q: Tell me what a typical day is like for you in the Smith Household?
A: When I’m at my Mom’s I’m closer to my friends and school, but I don’t hang out a lot. I’m either working out or playing the video game or talking to friends on the phone. I like to keep my circle small.
Q: Who are your close friends in your circle?
A: People in my school like Lucas, Johnny, Shane, Nolan. I also got my brothers who I’ve played basketball with since I was a baby.
Q: The AAU season has been crazy this year, what has the change been like for you?
A: Everyone is just happy to play. It’s not the traditional traveling and stuff playing against teams in different states, but Georgia is competitive and there are good teams here. It’s been fun being with teammates and playing against people we’ve known since we were babies. It’s not the same but we can’t dwell on it we just have to be grateful that we’re getting the chance to play.
Q: I’ve noticed a maturity with your game, where do you think that comes from?
A: My Dad, he keeps it real with me, and then I’ve worked with real game stuff, and not stuff that you do twice in a game. I've always played against people older than me. I've also played with my Dad in some pick-up games against him and other pros and I see how simple the pro’s game are and I try to mimic the people I want to be like one day.
Q: How do you describe your game?
A: I would say I’m extremely versatile on offense and defense. Going to college I feel like I can step it up on defense and work on that more but I am versatile on both ends on the floor. I can do whatever the coach asks me to do. I’m unselfish, I try to shoot but not take any bad shots because my dad taught me that.
Q: Do you have anybody that you patterned your game after or compare your game to?
A: I would right now compare myself to Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porziņģis, and guys like that. I try to watch Jayson Tatum and how simple he plays. I of course look up to my dad and how he played when he was younger.
Q: Would you say you’re a coachable player?
A: Yes, I’ve never had a coach say I’m not coachable. If you and the coach have a connection and you can say what you see on the floor so I can talk to them and listen to what they have to say because, at the end of the day, they are the coach and know more than me. You have to respect your coach in order for your team to succeed.
Q: What motivates you in basketball?
A: I’m really competitive and my whole family has played basketball so my brother and my dad motivate me. I want to be like my dad but be even higher than him because he was a little bit before his time. My brother has been through a lot and he motivates me to see that there is no battle that is too big and I keep him on my mind and always be humble and keep pushing forward.
Q: Do you like or love basketball?
A: I love basketball.
A: It’s been in my family since I was a baby. The first thing I probably picked up was a basketball. Watching my dad and older brother play I was like “I wanna do that” so I fell in love with that. I love working hard and competing. It’s like, what’s not to like?
Q: Has there been any adversity that you've faced on or off the court?
A: Nothing real dramatic, everyone goes through stuff, and nothings been too crazy.
Q: What makes you tick, like is there anything that bothers you?
A: Me going against someone who gets spooked out playing against me, I want to make it clear that he can’t mess with me. With trash talk, if someone talking crazy to me I might laugh or talk a little back. In every game, it’s like the switch is flipped, if they think they have something to prove to me I feel like I’ll have something to prove to them and show them that this is for real!
Q: What are your goals for next season and moving forward after high school?
A: My goal for every year is to just get better, like a significant change that people can see. I want to win a State Championship before I graduate. I want to leave my mark on the school and the State. I want to leave an impact on the people and be a leader.
Q: What are the schools that have offered you?
A: Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, North Carolina, and Tennessee
Q: What do you want to major in?
A: I want to major in Communications with a minor in Business. I look at schools and ask about my major and get some information on that.
Q: What are you looking for in a program?
A: I want to be coached, pushed, and be treated like I’m a regular player on the team. I want to go to a team that’s family-oriented and close together. I want a coach that will care about me as a person and player. Also with location, I want to be close to home and I think that the fans have to be like real fans.
Q: What are your grades like?
A: Last year I finished with a 3.0. I didn’t do my best Freshman and Sophomore year and I picked it up Junior year and this year I wanna get a 3.5 and up and set the bar high and finish my senior year strong.
Q: Last question, would you rather hit a game-winning shot at home or on the road and tell me why?
A: On the road for sure. You can feel when you suck the energy out of a place. When it’s a rival team, and you hit it you know that’s what people will be talking about at school for the next week. If you hit a shot like that, there’s nothing like it.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Jabari for taking the time to sit down and answer a few questions. I look forward to seeing his continued growth and success as a basketball player and person. I encourage him to continue to work hard, keep the same work ethic & mentality that's gotten him to this point, and keep continue to keep that circle small. But above all else, make sure when you step in-between the lines they remember your name!
Until next time...