Jabari Smith is playing his best basketball at just the right time
Over the last 10 games, few in college basketball can even come close to what the 6-foot-10 freshman phenom is doing on offense.
PF Jabari Smith (Jacob Taylor/Auburn Athletics)
Like Bruce Pearl says, Jabari Smith could have gone anywhere in the country.
He was the nation’s No. 7 overall prospect coming out of high school, per the 247Sports Composite. He was a McDonald’s All-American. He swept the state player of the year awards in Georgia — one of the most competitive basketball areas around. He had opportunities to play professionally in the G League or overseas instead of going the college route.
Smith picked Auburn out of a sea of Southern college basketball excellence. He could be close to his home in suburban Atlanta. He clicked with Pearl and the rest of the Tigers staff. He saw the recent development track record Auburn had with the likes of Chuma Okeke, Isaac Okoro, Sharife Cooper and JT Thor.
But, most importantly, Smith came to win.
“That’s why I came here,” Smith said last Saturday. “I felt like this school was going to put me in the best position to win a national championship, win the SEC, win all these accolades that we’re trying to get.”
Auburn will head into the SEC Tournament later this week as the No. 1 seed. The Tigers won the outright league championship in one of the toughest seasons the SEC has ever seen. They are No. 4 in the country and a consensus projected No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a historic 27-4 record.
And while Pearl loves to lean on the Tigers’ depth and hammer home the importance of everyone contributing — 11 players were in the rotation in the clincher against South Carolina, which is a rarity for an elite team this late in the season — he’s honest about his cornerstone.
“I promised Jabari — I said, 'Look, I'm going to get you enough talent so that we can win a championship,’” Pearl said Saturday.
Auburn already has one of those championships before hitting the postseason, and a lot of that has to do with the play of Smith.
Since the start of February, Smith has been one of the best players in all of college basketball. Over the final 10 games of the regular season, the numbers for the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft have been nothing short of absurd.
Jabari Smith’s Last 10 Games
Points per game: 20.2 (99th percentile in Division I)
3-point FG%: 50.0% (98th percentile)
Fouls drawn per game: 4.5 (97th percentile)
Free throw attempts per game: 6.6 (100th percentile)
FT%: 83.3% (92nd percentile)
Rebounds per game: 7.2 (92nd percentile)
True Shooting: 62.3% (85th percentile)
Shrink it down to the last five games, and the absurdity only increases.
Jabari Smith’s Last 5 Games
Points per game: 23.6 (100th percentile)
3-point FG%: 51.9% (98th percentile)
Fouls drawn per game: 5.0 (99th percentile)
Free throw attempts per game: 7.8 (100th percentile)
FT%: 92.3% (98th percentile)
Rebounds per game: 8.0 (96th percentile)
True Shooting: 64.7% (92nd percentile)