For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present Jabari Smith, Jr., from Tyrone, Georgia:
Pro Insight: Describe your game. What are your strengths?
Jabari Smith: I say I’m a stretch four, but I can play the three. I think I can play any position. I think my strongest advantage is at the four. I’m fast, I can shoot. I can dribble. My strengths are shooting and being able to handle the ball. I’m versatile, can play in the post, and my rim protection while being able to guard all positions.
PI: Where are your biggest areas of improvement?
JS: I can improve on my strength and getting my body better. My foot quickness and my overall motor. Getting more versatile overall
PI: What do you need to do to improve your motor?
JS: It’s a mindset going into every game. The mindset to dominate every game. My dad says “don’t be afraid to get tired.” Exert everything you can, get subbed out, and come right back in.
PI: What are you doing to work on the other areas?
JS: I’m trying to do a lot of reps in the weight room with lighter weight to build tone. I know the weight will come later as I get older. Working on my overall body. For footwork, I’m in the sandpit during the offseason or doing ladders. I jump rope a lot. When we do sprints in practice I try to always come in first and push myself.
PI: What’s the most underrated part of your game?
JS: I think it’s my defense. I think I’m a good defender, but my motor has to improve. I think this season, I’m showing that I’m a better defender, I can protect the rim, and guard 1-5.
PI: What did you learn from your experience at USA Basketball in Brazil?
JS: Playing for something. With a meaning. For your country. Also, not everything is going to go your way. The food was so different down there, so we didn’t eat a ton. We had to adjust. They play a different style with the shot clock and other things, so we really had to adjust to that. Also, playing on a team where everyone is just as good as you, and some are better. Everyone is at such a high level, so you have to do things to separate yourself to stand out in a game. It comes down to doing whatever it takes to help your team win.
PI: Talk more about your experience with food down there?
JS: It was just different. The places close to us, some guys didn’t really love, so the coaches would let us go to some burger places or pizza places every now and then.
PI: What’s your favorite food overall?
PI: Who were you closest with on Team USA in Brazil?
JS: Dillon [Hunter]. He’s from Georgia too, so I knew him before we got there. I really got close to everyone though. We became a family and really bonded. Everyone else there was speaking a different language, so we had to stick together. I roomed with Dillon.
PI: Who was your funniest teammate?
JS: It would probably have to be Chris Livingston. He’s a clown. Greg Glenn is funny. Everyone was pretty funny, honestly.
PI: What did you do off-the-court from your time with Team USA?
JS: We’d all go to eat together or go to someone’s room and mess around. Some guys liked to rap, so we’d do that. There was a game system downstairs too. We’d go down there and play or chill down there sometimes.
PI: What did you learn off-the-court from your time with Team USA?
JS: Learning how to pass the time and adjust to a different environment. We had to learn how to adjust to the different culture. Sometimes, you can think about how you want to go home, but fighting through that, and staying positive. Being with twelve guys in that situation, you have to open up and get to know people. Overall, just being more vocal and learning about different situations and cultures.
PI: You’ve been to a couple mini-camps with Team USA, how were those experiences?
JS: I went to the Final Four mini-camp in April, which was my first one. I was 15 and didn’t really know anyone. I kept to myself most of the time. When I went to the tryout [for Brazil] I saw some people I knew from the last one and got to know new people. Then, when I came back in October, everyone knew me and it was way easier. I had friends there and got to compete. It’s more fun to compete with people you know. It was pretty cool.
PI: You have some time to figure it out, but as you think about playing in college, what factors are most important to you in terms of choosing a school?
JS: What system and play style fit me, and which place will put me in the best position to succeed.
PI: What are some of your offers right now?
JS: Georgia Tech, Auburn, LSU, Florida State, Arizona State, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Clemson.
PI: Does staying close to home matter to you?
JS: I definitely think about it. Being able to have family see you play and being close to home are things I think about it. It’s not something I have to do, but something I think about.
PI: Where are you at with your recruitment, currently?
JS: I haven’t really visited many places yet. I got to go the Alabama-LSU football game and got to watch Alabama practice. I went to the Georgia-Notre Dame game and I’ve been to a Georgia basketball game. I’ve also been to Georgia Tech a couple times.
PI: What do you need to focus on in NBA preparation?
JS: I don’t think about it much, but it’s definitely a dream and I see myself there. I think about how people are doing “load management” in the NBA. I think about taking care of my body now. Icing and doing different treatments. When we have back-to-backs in high school, trying to match NBA preparation to my preparation now. I might take an ice bath or do something I hear that NBA players do. I just try to mimic what they do as much as possible, so that when I get there, it won’t be new. Trying to copy what they do best.
PI: What number do you wear and why?
JS: I wear number 10. My dad wore 55 and 52. 5 plus 5 is 10 and 5 times 2 is 10. My brother also wore 10 in high school and AAU. It’s always been a number for me. I picked it my freshman year because it was the smallest jersey close to that. I liked the number too.
PI: What are your short term goals?
JS: Winning a state championship, getting better every day and being remembered for being a good teammate.
PI: What about long term goals?
JS: I want to make it to the NBA. I want to leave my footprint wherever I am. I want to be remembered as a hard worker, a good person, and someone who doesn’t play games on the court, but everyone looks up to and likes.
PI: Do you model your game after anyone in particular?
JS: Guys who can play multiple positions. Anthony Davis. Giannis. Kevin Durant. I try to model Paul George’s defense. I don’t say LeBron often. He’s my favorite player, but I love his demeanor, how he keeps it calm and professional. The way he handles himself off the court and the things he does for the community. With how much people say about him, he doesn’t let it get to him. Just being known as a winner and having a great overall mindset for the game.
PI: Hardest player you’ve ever had to guard?
JS: Jalen Duren, Mike Foster and Chet Holmgren.
PI: How would you compare your game Chet?
JS: We’re both tall guys who can shoot. His rim protection is underrated and he can move a little bit. He looks skinny, but he’s not going to let you push him around.
PI: What about Jalen Duren?
JS: He’s huge. He’s going to post up every play and crash the offensive glass. If you’re guarding him, just know you’re going to have a tough night. He’s not going to stop moving.
PI: What about Patrick Baldwin Jr.?
JS: He’s a shooter. He has a really high release point and good mechanics. He’s got a really good shot fake. We’re both trying to show off our motors this year.
PI: How much have you grown in the last couple years? How tall are you and what do you weigh? Are you still growing?
JS: My freshman year, I was about 6’4” or 6’5”. I’m 6’9” or 6’10” now. It’s been steady. I wear a size 16 or 17 shoe. I think I have room to keep growing. I weigh 195.
PI: Do you know your wingspan?
JS: I don’t know exactly, but I think it’s 6’11” or 7’0”.
PI: Switching gears, who has influenced your life the most and why?
JS: My mom, my dad and my brother. My dad, seeing how he handles himself. It’s family first. Everyone likes him. I also liked how he played on the court. He’s teaching me a lot and has impacted my game and my life a lot.
PI: Did he emphasize that you needed to shoot as the game changes?
JS: Definitely. He said shooting was always something that you can use to separate yourself from other people. He taught me that early. He told me to be versatile. He was right.
PI: Your dad has NBA and overseas experience. Did you ever travel overseas with him?
JS: I went to China with him when I was around 5 or so. I can’t really remember. I do remember that I met Coach Calipari while I was in China.
PI: What advice has your mom given you on life?
JS: She tells me to have fun with the game. She says if you’re having fun with it, nobody can take that away from you. She always tells me to do my best, and know that my best can be better. Just to keep pushing forward.
PI: What are four words that best describe Jabari Smith?
JS: Winner. Competitive. Athlete. Funny.
PI: Tell us something about yourself that most people have no idea about.
JS: People probably don’t know I play Xbox. I play Fortnite and Call of Duty. I’m not really a party guy. If I have free time, I play Xbox and chill.
PI: Do you have a favorite movie?
JS: My dad and I like Life. Money Talks. Friday.
PI: TV show?
JS: Regular show. I also like Martin.
PI: What’s your biggest passion outside of basketball?
JS: Competing. Even if we’re playing a game in class. I don’t like to lose. I think that’s why I like video games, because you can compete.
PI: Describe your life ten years from now.
JS: I think I’ll be in the NBA. I’ll probably be married. I might be on my second contract. I see myself being that guy that people say is the next best, will be in the league for a long time, and someone that people look up to. I want to give back to my community and people who went through stuff that I did. I want to be someone that kids want to model themselves after.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you want to be remembered for?
JS: A competitor. A winner. Someone people like to be around. A good teammate. Someone that can get on teammates when necessary. A dog on the court that can joke around off the court. Someone that’s about business but also balances the funny part.