SAN RAFAEL, Calif. -- In June of 2013, few could have predicted that two of the top point guards on the West Coast would be in the same gym, at the same camp, but after 2017 Hayward (Calif.) Moreau Catholic’s Damari Milstead emerged last season, the secret is out on the other point at California’s two-day camp: Jade’ Smith.
Smith is already being pursued by several programs – including Colorado, Notre Dame and Northern Arizona -- with the new Golden Bears staff set to jump in, whole-hog, very soon. Cal had two assistants (Tracy Webster and Jon Harris) at Smith’s game last week, and are poised to make a big push for the player who’s been called the best prospect to come out of Alameda (Calif.) St. Joseph Notre Dame since a name that Cal fans may know very well -- Jason Kidd.
Smith – who, like Kidd, wears No. 5 – has heard the comparisons, but he displays a lot of maturity and poise for someone so young, and shrugs off the Kidd talk.
“I hear it, but I still have to stay on a level with the team, don’t think of anything ahead of me,” Smith. “I’m just trying to stay a team player, instead of being something over that.”
Reminders of Kidd, though, are hard to escape.
“When we walk into the gym, there are Jason Kidd pictures everywhere. We have his jersey up and everything. Everyone talks about him,” said Smith. “He’s a big factor at St. Joe’s.”
Smith is pointedly aware of Kidd’s legacy of staying home for college ball. Seeing Kidd’s own No. 5 jersey in the rafters of Haas Pavilion drove that point home two Junes ago.
“My ninth grade year, last year, I went on a visit with coach [Donald] Lippi, just walking around, and I played at Cal, coming into St. Joe’s,” Smith said of the camp. “It was a big tournament. Some games were in the arena (Haas Pavilion), some were out. It was crazy. I know a lot about Jason Kidd, and knowing that he went to St. Joe’s, knowing that Cal’s looking at our players, I’m pretty sure they were looking at Temidayo Yussuf. Cal was at St. Joe’s all the time, so I kind of got that feel, and Temidayo always said, ‘This can be you some day.’”
On Thursday, Smith and the rest of the Pilots had an off night, edging Novato (Calif.) San Marin, 51-49 in overtime of the second game of the first edition of the Dawg Classic at San Rafael High School.
“A lot of stuff happened today, a lot of people were out, and we only had seven players today, because some stuff happened back at the school, so we all had stuff on our minds,” Smith said. “It wasn’t anything that they were doing special.”
Smith shot just 4-for-12 from the field, but finished with 12 points, eight assists and two steals, driving the dagger through the Mustangs with a wide-open three-pointer with 50.1 seconds left on the clock.
“Since I wasn’t hitting shots throughout the game, they kind of played off of me,” Smith said. “I know I can knock that shot down, so I didn’t hesitate to shoot it.”
Smith shows quite the sense of occasion, as well as a high basketball IQ and good court vision. He’s long and loose but has good handles and a lot of self-confidence, but not so much that he tries to make things happen when they aren’t available.