Rick Barnes and his coaching staff are swinging for the fences in the 2021 recruiting cycle. After signing two five-stars and another highly-rated four-star in the 2020 class, Barnes is trying to bring in even more elite talent to Tennessee in the 2021 class.
Not only have the Vols positioned themselves well with five-star point guard Kennedy Chandler and five-star power forward Paolo Banchero, but five-star forward Jabari Smith is another dynamic prospect on Tennessee’s board who feels the love from the Vols on a regular basis.
In an interview with Evan Daniels of 247Sports, Smith was asked which teams are recruiting him the hardest and making him feel like a priority. Smith listed off a handful of schools, and the Vols were among them.
“Definitely Georgia has prioritized me a lot, definitely Tennessee, LSU, Auburn has,” Smith told Daniels. “I’m supposed to get on a Zoom call with Auburn in a couple of days, maybe a week or so. Also Georgia Tech has been on me pretty hard. They’ve been on me since the beginning. They’ve been on me hard. Ole Miss has been on me too.”
According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Smith is the No. 5 overall prospect and No. 2 power forward in the 2021 cycle. The 6-foot-10, 210-pound athlete — who plays for Sandy Creek in Tyrone, Georgia — has been on UT’s radar for a while, and Tennessee’s coaching staff has made sure to let him know that he’s one of their top targets in this cycle.
Smith got to see the Vols in action twice this past season. He took an official visit to see Tennessee in late February for UT’s victory over Florida, marking Smith’s final visit before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down recruiting visits. The week before that, Smith took a trip over to Auburn when the Tigers hosted the Vols.
Though those six teams are the ones really prioritizing Smith right now, he also added to Daniels that North Carolina has upped their interest in him lately, and an offer from the Tarheels may be coming soon.
Because of that and the likely interest that could come from other teams, Smith isn’t in a rush to make a decision just yet.
“I’m just going to take it slow, I’m not really in a rush so just focusing on getting better,” Smith explained. “I definitely think about it and talk to my parents about it a lot, but I don’t see me jumping in and making a decision anytime soon.
“I think I’m definitely taking it slow and making the right decision when I’m ready.”
The talented forward played with the USA Under 16 squad last year and helped guide the US to a gold medal in the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. Smith started three of six games for the 2019 USA U16 National Team and averaged 13.8 points and 6.2 rebounds.
Smith is an athletic forward who is capable of attacking the basket and hitting jump shots from the perimeter. He’s rangy and doesn’t have the frame to bang down low with bigger bodies, but his athleticism gives him an edge over bigger players. Smith also affects the game on the defensive end. He uses his long arms to rip down rebounds and alter shots along the interior.
In his junior season, Smith averaged 24.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 1.6 assists, and 1.3 steals per game according to MaxPreps. He shot 50 percent overall from the floor and 38 percent from three.
While Tennessee doesn’t currently have any prospects committed to them in their 2021 class, the Vols are pursuing some of the top recruits in the cycle, including Smith. Tennessee is also in contention with five-stars Paolo Banchero, Kennedy Chandler, Harrison Ingram, and Charles Bediako. Four-star forward Trey Patterson and fast-rising guard Gabe Dorsey are also on the Vols’ board.