One on one with Junior Smith

It appears as though Duke is looking to the class of 2016 for the program's next starting point guard. One of the top options on the board is Fayetteville (N.C.) standout Junior Smith. We spoke with the high-flying lead guard recently to get the latest on his recruitment, Duke's interest, and much more.

You've gotten a ton of early attention in the recruiting process, how have you begun to deal with it?

Junior Smith: It's a lot, but I haven't always had this, so I'm enjoying it right now. It's a blessing. Most of the recognition happened over this past summer, I had a real big summer and because of that, I think I got a lot more recognition. Then it's just carried onto now.

For anyone who has never seen you play before, how would you describe your game?

I'm a smart player, a leader, and I make contributions on both ends of the floor. I'm a winner and I try to make winning plays on both ends of the court. As a player, I'm a pretty balanced point guard, I had two games this high school season where I had 19 assists in each and then I had games where I scored 30 or 40 points, so I think I have a pretty balanced game overall. I started developing that approach when I was about 6 years old and actually, my pops used to get on me a lot and's been doing that even more the last 2 months to make sure I play the right way.

Have you always been more a natural type point guard, or was it moreso you worked on adding point guard skills to your game over time?

I've always been a natural point guard, I was always shorter than everybody else growing up, so I've grown up always working on my ballhandling and that type of stuff, learning how to pass first, fundamentals, things like that.

Who have been your major influences in the game?

My dad, he wasn't a basketball player but he was a phenomenal football player though. He helped me with the fundamentals from an early age, like the first thing he worked on that we still work on is dribbling, he would always tell me that if you can dribble and pass the ball, you can play on any team and then I learned other things like how to shoot left-handed layups consistently, he always told me that I needed to be more sound than anybody I played against, no matter their age.

You mentioned earlier that you received a lot of new recognition since last summer because of your play, can you elaborate on that?

It's been a lot of attention, but it's not as hard as people may think, it's not really that hard. I've got great family support, they've been helping me a lot with letting me know who I'm supposed to talk to or who I'm not supposed to talk to.

Who in your family has been helping you with the recruiting process?

My dad, my grandma, my aunts, cousins. Me and my dad talk to all of the college coaches. I talk with Shaka Smart and the whole VCU staff, they got a great staff, real down to earth, I talk to them regularly. My dad talks with Duke, UNC, NC State, VCU.

Do you have any firm, committable scholarship offers at this point or is still just early interest?

So far I've got Three offers, first one was UNC-Charlotte, then VCU, then NC State offered me during the High School OT Tournament.

Is it a big deal for you to have early offers?

It was great, it's a blessing from God to even have those offers, so I have to be humble about it, but it's been great, it helps keep my confidence high.

Is it an advantage you think for those early schools who offered you scholarships once you progress down the road of your recruitment?

I'm not looking at it like that, I'm looking at it from the perspective of who is the best fit for me.

What are you evaluating about schools as you figure out whether they are a good fit or not for you?

Style of play mostly, like how their guards play for them. Like if I like how the guards are playing the pace of the game, like I'm the type who likes a fast paced type of play, I don't like a ton of half court and that's it, I mean, I can play half court, but I like to play fast-paced.

Who does a good job at playing that style of play in your opinion of the schools recruiting you?

VCU does a great job at it, playing a fast-paced, up-tempo game, they do a great job at it. Definitely UNC does it with the way Marcus Paige has been playing, them too. That's all I can think of off-hand.

With North Carolina, how much communication have you guys had with the staff there?

My dad talks with them a good amount, but I haven't really talked with them too much. I talk a lot more with VCU, they are just real genuine with me, when I talk with them, it's like we're related or something. With VCU we talk about being a better person a lot, like one thing that I really like about them is Coach Smart will say that even if I don't got to VCU, I still gotta remember it's all about growing up as a person, it's not just about basketball, they talk to me about a lot of things. I visited VCU earlier in the season against Winthrop. It's crazy there, it's sold out, crazy packed in there, the fans, they have some great fans, I took a picture with some of them. The players are real cool, it was just a great experience for me going there.

How would you characterize the appraoch VCU is taking with you?

They are really pressing me for a commitment right now. I like it though, like I mentioned earlier, I didn't always have this attention, so I'm enjoying it right now.

Do you and your family already have a plan in mind about how you are going to handle the recruiting process, especially as it relates to the timing of a decision on your part?

We haven't really discussed one yet, I think it will end being whichever one I think is the best fit for me, and not just with basketball, but also with academics because those are important and location too.

What do you mean by location?

I always think, I'm not really too interested in going extremely far away to college. If I have to if it's a better fit for me then I will do it, but that's not going to be my first choice. One of the main things for me is the location to be honest, even if I do go to a school if I'm one and done, or even if I stay for two years, I'm going to come back and graduate because you have to have a life after basketball, so whichever school will help me with that will be the best fit for me.

Is it a goal of your's to be a one and done player in college?

I have no clue right now, whichever one is best for me and my family is what I'll do.

Is there anyone on the high school or summer circuit you'd like to play with at the next level?

I'm good friends with a lot of people on the AAU Circuit, so there's a whole bunch of people like Seventh Woods of course, Harry Giles, a lot of them. Harry's a real good dude, so if anybody meets him, it's real easy to click with him. Harry's a real good guy and he's a great player, phenomenal, he deserves every ranking he gets. If anybody wants to play with me in college they can play with me, if they don't, they don't, that's totally fine with me.

You mentioned Seventh Woods, you and him are highly recognized in your class at the same position...

Yeah, I think there's not too many guards that can really play with us and he's like a little brother to me, we real tight. We've known each other for four years. I think we have a lot of similarities, I think he's more of a scoring point guard wheras I'm more a passing point guard, that's about the only difference.

Since you both play the PG spot, is it a potential option in your mind to play alongside Seventh in college?

I'm not sure yet, him and I a lot of times will joke around about playing together in college, I'm not really sure about that yet and he's not really sure about that yet either. We'll just see what happens.

You mentioned Duke as a school you guys have talked with a little bit, can you take me through what you and your dad have discussed with them in the times you have talked?

They haven't offered yet, but they are coming up on one, I believe. I think they may offer me soon.

What leads you to believe that?

Just how interested they have been in me already. Like they told me I could come to any game that I want, they talk to me a lot after all the games I've visited for, they just got a lot of interest in me right now, so I believe they may offer me soon.

How many times have you visited Duke's campus?

I've been twice for two different games. Mostly I've talked with Coach Capel but I've also talked a little bit with Coach Nate James too and I've talked with Coach K whenever I've been at campus, but other than that I haven't talked with him outside of that.

When you and Coach K have talked on Duke's campus, what kind of things have you discussed?

He basically told me that 2016, that's the perfect year for me to go there because he said Tyus Jones, the point guard they have coming in this year, at most they think he only stays for two years, so he's not going to recruit a point guard in 2015 he said, which makes him believe he said that 2016 is the perfect year for me to come there.

What is your reaction to that?

I'm honored to be honest, one of the greatest coaches ever in college basketball, one of the greatest programs ever in college basketball wants me to go to their school, it's just a real honor for me.

Now that you have had a chance to visit Duke's campus, have you formed any impressions?

It's a real nice campus, the gym is a little small but you wouldn't go there for a gym, you go there for the history there, it's real nice up there. The games are just crazy, between them and VCU, those are hands down the craziest games I've been to. They have great fan support at the games, it's always a great experience. I went to their NC State game and then I went to their Carolina game this year. The Carolina game was off the hook.

When you've been there to see games, have you formed any early opinions on their style of play?

I don't see the guards having too much action this particular year, but maybe that's because of their personnel this year, like when Nolan Smith was there, he had the ball in his hands a lot, so that makes me think that it matters who their personnel is each year. Like they have Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker this year, so they have the ball a lot. It always seems like Coach K, whoever his best offensive players are, he'll let them play freely, so that's good.

It sounds like you've been watching Duke play for awhile...

Since Kyrie Irving got there. He didn't play too many games, but when he played, he had a green light, Coach K gave him a green light for sure.

Has Coach K indicated that you would have the same thing in your conversations with him if you went there?

He hasn't said that directly, but I think I would if I went there.

Going back to your thoughts that you think Duke might be coming with an offer soon, has any member of the staff indicated that to you?

Yeah, that came directly from Coach K, he told me that 2016 will be a good year for me to go there, so I'm guessing but to me, that's like an unofficial offer.

What are the conversations like with Coach Capel and Coach James?

With Coach Capel, it's more joking around because he used to go to school around here, so I can joke around with him on stuff like that. We just talk basketball and stuff like that, they are real nice people, just like the people at VCU.

Are there any schools that haven't expressed interest in you yet that you are hoping to hear from?

My high school coach told me that Florida has some interest in me and that they do a good job at producing NBA Players, so I'd like to hear a little bit more from Florida and I heard back over the summer that Kentucky might have shown some interest but I haven't heard from them recently, so I'm not sure about them.

How would those schools jumping in change things at this stage for you?

I think other schools would start coming at me if Kentucky were to come at me.

Is distance a factor for you with any program?

I don't think that'll be too far for Florida or UK.


The Devils Den Top Stories