Five-star Jabari Smith commits to Auburn

Five-star 2021 forward Jabari Smith Jr (Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, Georgia) committed to Auburn Oct. 9. Smith is a top 10 player nationally and the highest ranked commit in Auburn history.

Smith is the No. 1 power forward in the country and the top ranked player in Georgia. He projects as one of the top prospects in the 2022 draft class, according to Bleacher Report.

Jabari Smith Jr breakdown: 

Smith is a modern day big man. Based on seeing him in person, Smith is a legitimate 6-10 and has the frame necessary to add serious muscle. 

Smith’s offense centers around his versatile skill set and deep bag that lets him create mismatches in most scenarios. These usually show in his dominant face up game, in transition or as a stretch big man who can shoot from anywhere on the court.

Shooting is Smith’s most well known skill. As a junior, he made 77 threes in 30 games for Sandy Creek and shot 37-percent from three during the U16 Americas Championship the summer before.

His form and release are high level, especially considering his size and age.

While more known for his three-point shooting, Smith’s shot gives him a dangerous midrange game, especially with him adding more moves to his bag and tightening his handle.

Smith can also shoot in catch and shoot situations and off the dribble.

His three point shooting needs to become more consistent, but his shooting form indicates that will come with repetition.

In the high post or on the perimeter, Smith now has the handle, vision and IQ to get to his “sweet spot” more times than not. Once he gets to a favorable spot, Smith usually has the moves and handle to create a clean look. His developing passing skills, unselfish play and IQ help him not take many “bad” shots.

More often than not, Smith’s bag of tricks, handle and good shot give him a way to beat his defender.

Smith’s handle and tendency to grab a rebound and go will make him perfect for Bruce Pearl’s offense, especially if he is paired with players with similar tendencies such as Sharife Cooper, JT Thor and Tyrell Jones.

Smith handled the ball frequently for the Atlanta Celtics this summer by bringing the ball up the court, driving and more.

Smith’s vision is ahead of his passing skills, which gives me confidence that he’ll be even more of a problem in transition and in mismatch and isolation situations once he tightens up his handle and passing in the next year or at Auburn.

Smith can play the four or the five in Auburn’s system, thanks to his handle and shooting. 

Smith’s “weakness,” although there isn’t much of one, probably comes in the form of strength and athleticism and how they relate to his defense. In an interview with AU Hoops News, Smith mentioned Pearl’s ability to coach defense and help Smith improve in that category as one of his favorite things about the coaching staff.

With all of the improvements Smith has made between his junior year of high school and now and the competitive nature he plays with, I expect he will continue to improve and likely take a big step once he gets into Auburn’s weight room and practice facilities next season.

What’s next? 

In 2020, we saw Auburn turn into a contender for several top 10 players after Cooper’s commitment. Even though Auburn doesn’t have any open spots following Smith’s commitment, I expect Auburn to pursue some of the top remaining players in 2021 now that Smith is on board. 

My “educated guess” says one of those players will be 2021 combo guard Trey Alexander

Alexander is a long guard with good upside. He plays high school basketball at Heritage Hall in Oklahoma City and traveled to Atlanta this summer with Next Play Force to play in Who Wants The Smoke, which was hosted by Smith’s Celtics team. 

In a recent interview with Jacob Polacheck of ZagsBlog, Alexander said “Auburn is definitely a place that I would like to go.”

Wesley Cardet fits a similar role to Alexander in a high upside combo guard still on the board in 2021, but Auburn seems to be in a better position with Alexander right now.

Signing more players in 2021 won’t be necessary if everyone returns next season, and I expect Auburn to also turn the heat up on a few of its 2022 targets with Smith committed. Players such as Scoot Henderson and Joyful Hawkins could become even bigger priorities with Smith now on board. 

Smith’s commitment should give Auburn a deep, experienced and talented roster capable of making a run in the 2021-22 season, especially if everyone returns.

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