Recruiting Update/Who Wants the Smoke

Some of the biggest names in high school basketball traveled to Atlanta for Who Wants The Smoke at Hebron Christian Academy.

The showcase was hosted by On The Radar Hoops and the Atlanta Celtics, whose 17u team features Auburn’s top two targets in 2021 in Jabari Smith and JD Davison. The Celtics also added five-star 2022 guard Skyy Clark, and 2023 phenom Mikey Williams played with the Celtics’ 16u team. 

Former Auburn commit, and current Ole Miss commit, Daeshun Ruffin led a Next Force team which also featured four-star Jaylon Tyson and others. Ruffin dominated the Atlanta Celtics in the showcase game, finishing with 25 points, three assists and two steals in what might have been the performance of the day.

2022 five-star guard Scoot Henderson, arguably Auburn’s top 2022 target, and stock riser Chase Cormier moved up to Game Elite’s 17U 3SSB team. Several other Auburn and SEC targets were in action. Here’s a breakdown of what Auburn’s top targets did:

Jabari Smith

Smith continues to look like an extremely polished big man. Whether it’s game planning or comfort level, Smith seems to be handling the ball more every tournament I watch. 

Inside the three-point line is where Smith is still most dangerous. Like most guys with his combination of size and speed, Smith can bully people in the post, but his face up game is what sets him apart, and also makes him a potentially great fit at Auburn.

Smith’s midrange game, whether it comes out of a face up, a turnaround fade-away or a catch and shoot, is great for his size and age.

Smith can protect the rim and seems to have the length and potential-athleticism to turn into a player who can follow stretch bigs and some wings around the perimeter. Smith can also get dangerously hot from three. For a big man, Smith has one of the best looking three point shots in prep basketball, especially when in rhythm. 

JD Davison

Davison has been quiet in the last few games I’ve seen him in. But one thing to consider about Davison is the talent difference between the AAU teams he’s playing with and against right now and the high school teams he normally plays. There’s a good chance he is still getting used to it and his new team.

Davison’s shot has improved since I first saw it this summer. While there’s still work to do, it’s better and seems to be still improving based on his warm up attempts.

The rumor is Auburn has turned up the heat and even potentially taken the lead for Davison. However, it doesn’t sound like he is close to making a decision, and I think that benefits everyone but Auburn. A good season for Alabama, or enough improvements for Davison to become a G League target could hurt the Tigers’ chances. 

I still think Auburn is a great fit for the instate target. He’s being pitched a role as an off-ball guard in a dual back court. That would allow Davison to have a lot of touches but won’t put the burden of ball security and running the offense solely in his hands. It will also allow him to showcase his handle and isolation skills. 

While Davison might not be as polished as some of Auburn’s other targets, he is an elite athlete who seems to have the potential to mesh well with the other guards Auburn is targeting in 2021 and 2022.

Scoot Henderson

It doesn’t matter what age group Henderson plays with, his ability in transition is elite. Against Ruffin’s team, Henderson had to play on a short court (in his first game with a new team) and was still nearly unstoppable on fast breaks. 

Henderson and Ruffin went at each other a few times with pretty even splits. Ruffin got Henderson on a cross over once and Henderson forced a lose ball and made Ruffin dive after it when Ruffin tried to isolate Henderson later.

Henderson has made big strides since this time last season (see his 49 point game for example), but his potential still jumps out. His size, athleticism, attitude and recent improvements show a player who will likely continue to improve over the next few years. Which is saying a lot, considering Henderson is already ranked No. 12 in the country in 247. 

Henderson’s ability to thrive in one-on-one situations and in transition and the fact he seems to be enjoying the defensive end of the court more and more, makes him a great target for Auburn. But the same can likely be said about the other schools who have offered him. Henderson seems to like Auburn early on, and the Tigers have seemed to invest a good bit in him already. 

Former Auburn star Jared Harper also weighed in on Henderson after the tournament:

Roundup: 

Coaches and targets have been busy lately, even outside of the tournaments being played. 

Frankie Collins told Jacob Polacheck of ZagsBlog that Auburn is showing heavy interest. Collins said he talks to Bruce Pearl “almost every day,” and Wes Flanigan “everyday.” 

Like Davison, Henderson and others, Collins seems to posses the skill set to play well as a ball dominant or off ball guard.

Auburn is still recruiting the state of Arkansas heavily. Auburn offered Kel’el Ware—a four-star center in 2022 from North Little Rock—July 28 and class of 2022 four-star guard Derrian Ford took a zoom call with the “entire Auburn coaching staff,” July 31. 

Nick Smith Jr is another four-star from Arkansas receiving interest from Auburn early on.

Pearl and Auburn’s staff have also offered several targets from Texas and the Milwaukee area recently.

The Milwaukee-area targets include 2021’s James Graham, 2022’s Jeffrey Brazziel and 2023’s Gus “GusBus” Yaldon.

Texas targets include 2022 five-star Lee Dort, 2023 five-star Tyler Smith and others.

Another 2023 five-star to receive an Auburn offer is Akil Watson, a forward from New York. 

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