For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2021 prospect Malachi Smith, from The Bronx, New York:
Pro Insight: Can you share a bit about your background and your story?
Malachi Smith: I’m from The Bronx, New York. I go to St. Raymond. I’m a 6-foot guard — I play point guard. Just trying to make it, feed my family and get out of New York. Get my Mom a house.
PI: Have you always played basketball?
MS: Yeah I played basketball since I was like 4, so I’ve been playing for a long time. Had a lot of bad games, good games, played through my mistakes so I’m kind of used to it now.
PI: Did you play any other sports growing up?
MS: No, I didn’t play any other sports.
PI: What attracted you to basketball?
MS: I don’t really know, my pops gave me a ball and just started teaching me. After that I started taking it seriously once I realized I was good. And then just everything took off from there.
PI: What do you like most about the game of basketball?
MS: I think when the crowd gets into it and gets hype. I feel like I feed off of that and it makes me want to play more. I feel like that’s fun for me. When it’s a close game, the pressure, every possession counts, stuff like that. That’s what makes me want to play.
PI: Your brother, Scoochie Smith, played DI basketball. Tell me about your relationship with him?
MS: He went overseas, playing in Serbia, making some money. We been in the gym since I was little so that was like elementary school. He always used to beat me in 1-on-1, beat me up, stuff like that. But you know, that’s my brother. We cool, we don’t really talk now with different time zones in Serbia. But he’s always teaching me, he was helping me through my recruitment, telling me what to look at in colleges, telling me to think about my best fit for me, so he’s been with me the whole ride.
PI: Tell me about the recruitment process and how it has gone for you?
MS: Sophomore year I had mainly low major [offers] and then after this AAU season and this school year, I just started to get a lot of mid-majors. And then the high majors came all at once. I got like five high major [offers] all at once, in like a week. And I was like ‘damn this is crazy.’ They are calling me and stuff like that. And there’s quarantine, no AAU. So it was crazy.
PI: When you started getting mid-major and high-major offers did that change your mindset?
MS: No not really. I felt like my main goal was just to get better every year. And that’s what I did. Freshman year, didn’t have any offers. Sophomore year got low-major. Then junior year, mid and high. I feel like nothing really changed, I just wanted to get better every year and that’s what I did.
PI: When you began this process, what were you looking for in a school?
MS: I just wanted the best fit for me. Where I could play right away, either off the bench or start, just to have a big impact as a freshman. A good coach who trusts me and believes in me and that can get me far in life.
PI: Are you ready to announce your commitment?
MS: Yeah I’m ready, I’m ready. I feel good about this man, 4:00 I’m ready.
PI: Tell us who you are committing to and why?
MS: This year I’ll be committing to Dayton University, head coach Anthony Grant. The main reason I went there is I trust him, he’s African-American, [Naismith College] Coach of the year and you can’t go wrong with that. I trust him, I believe in him and I know he wants the best for me.
PI: Did your brother going to Dayton impact your decision in any way?
MS: No, that didn’t really factor into my decision. It’s my recruitment, not his. He had a different coach, so this is a new coach and I know he wants me, not Scoochie. So I didn’t really think about that.
PI: For the Dayton Flyers fans who might not have seen you play yet, describe your game. What are your greatest strengths?
MS: I’m a playmaker. Defense, two-way. Rebounding guard. I literally do everything; pass, shoot. I make my teammates better. They’re getting a lot next year.
PI: What are the weaknesses, or things you have to improve, in your game?
MS: I would say getting my shot more consistent. Everybody can get their shot more consistent. Getting stronger, that comes in time. And just getting more athletic.
PI: What’s the most underrated aspect of your game?
MS: I think my finishing. I’m only like 6-feet and I think I can finish around the rim better than most guards and I think that’s what puts me over the top.
PI: What are your official measurements?
MS: 6-feet and 165 pounds.
PI: With most things shut down right now due to COVID-19, what are some things you’re doing to stay ready and keep your basketball skills and conditioning up?
MS: I have a park that I go to, before the rims got taken down, they were up most of the time. Me and my pops was there, even when it was cold, 40-degree weather. And then I live in an apartment, so we’ve been running the steps, doing push-ups, calisthenics, just trying to stay in shape.
PI: Is there anything specifically that you’ve been trying to improve?
MS: Over quarantine I’m definitely trying to get stronger. I’ve been doing my push-ups. That’s one of my weaknesses, well not a weakness, but definitely could get better. So, I’m doing sit-ups, getting my core strong and my athleticism.
PI: Do you watch more college or NBA basketball?
MS: I watch college more than NBA because I feel like college is more competitive. People want to get to the NBA, so they play harder. I do watch NBA, I’ve been watching recently.
PI: Do you model your game after anyone in particular?
MS: Definitely my brother, Scooch, and Kemba Walker from The Bronx. Went to Rice High School. That’s one of my top three favorite players. He’s tough, he’s from The Bronx just like me. 6-feet, maybe shorter, so I play my game like him.
PI: Who are some of the toughest players you’ve had to guard?
MS: AAU I would have to say Jalen Suggs, going to Gonzaga, or Bryce Thompson [committed to Kansas]. From New York, I would say R.J. Davis [committed to North Carolina], we been playing with each other since 5th grade. We played Stepinac, they beat us but it was a good matchup though. R.J. is tough.
PI: What made Stepinac so difficult to play against?
MS: They have two All-Americans on their team. We, from The Bronx, just wanted to show that we could beat them, that we’re better than them. We trying to prove everyone wrong. But they good, they had A.J. Griffin [committed to Duke], who’s good. And Malcolm Chimezie, he just committed to Boston University. So, they had a great team.
PI: Walk us through your high school season?
MS: This season was tough, we were very underrated, we had a 20-win season. We went to the Final 4, nobody thought we would do this good. We believed in it, we traveled to Delaware. We had a great year. We had Luis Kortright, going to Quinnipiac. We had the coach of the year, Coach [Jorge] Lopez. He trusts me, trusts in our team, we had a lot of fun this year.
PI: How’d your AAU season go?
MS: Last AAU season was rough. I was 16, playing in U-17, playing up. I was getting bumped around and stuff like that, we lost a lot of games. We still did good because we got better. I was playing up, so that was good.
PI: Do you think you learned anything from playing against older players?
MS: Yeah, definitely. You can’t get away with some of the stuff that I would have gotten away with if I played U-16. Like I couldn’t go to the basket all the time. U-17 they have 7-footers there, everyone is bigger, stronger, and faster. So that helped me elevate my game.
PI: What are some of your hobbies outside of basketball?
MS: Outside of basketball, there’s really nothing to do here in New York. Some stuff is opening up, I’ve been hanging out with my friends, going to my friend’s house. Nothing crazy. Mainly all we do is play basketball. A lot of open runs, outside in the park, stuff like that.
PI: Who would you say has influenced your life the most up to this point?
MS: Definitely my parents. My dad, bought me the ball, put the basketball in my hands. I don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for him. I appreciate everything he’s done for me. I remember him cursing me out after a bad game. I was like ‘I don’t want to play basketball,’ but I know all of that was worth it now.
PI: What has been a defining moment or story in your life?
MS: I would say after Stepinac, when we lost the championship. I didn’t have my best game so I remember I came home and I didn’t talk to nobody, my phone was off. I didn’t eat for like two days. I was in my room doing nothing, just thinking about the game, like ‘damn, we just lost.’
PI: Have you had to overcome any big obstacles in your personal or family life?
MS: Everybody in my family is supportive, I have a big support group. I would say what I had to work on in basketball is being vocal on the court. I think I’m better at that now. But everybody in my life, I have a big support group, they come to my games.
PI: Name four words that best describe you.
MS: Humble. Hardworking. Fearless. That’s the main three.
PI: Talk about your greatest all-time memory on the court.
MS: I would have to say when we played Stepinac again this year. I had 30 points and 10 assists. Me and my backcourt teammate, Luis Kortnight, he had 33 too. So we were running and gunning on them, we was killing them. So that’s one of my favorite games.
PI: Tell us something about yourself that most people have no idea about?
MS: Most people wouldn’t know that off the court, I’m a quiet and humble guy. I’m not really outgoing. I like to stay inside, I’m not really an outgoing person.
PI: If you were going to do anything other than basketball for a career, what would it be?
MS: I would play football. I would like to play defense; I would like to play safety or something like that. Play defense in football.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you want to be remembered for?
MS: I want to be remembered that I came from The Bronx, out of New York. I came from the bottom. I want people to know I’m here, no shortcuts — that’s it, really. No shortcuts, I never had nothing handed out to me.
PI: Is there anything you would like to say addressing the Black Lives Matter movement?
MS: Definitely. Crazy thing is, racism is taught. I definitely went into my decisions, Dayton has a African-American coach. It’s crazy because my mom is scared for me to go outside. The cops, there’s gun violence going on. I just want to get out of here, get to Dayton as soon as I can and get to work as soon as possible.