The 6-11 center last played in the
NBA in 2005 with the New Jersey Nets. But since then, Smith, who was at LSU in
1999 and 2000, has played overseas, spending the bulk of his time in
Jabari was kind enough to give
Tiger Rag a phone interview from
Here's that conversation.
Even though it has been seven years
since he played at LSU, Smith admits that his time as a Tiger is never very far
from his psyche. "I couldn't have wanted it to turn out any better and have no
regrets," he said. "The only bad taste was losing to
A native of
"(Assistant) Coach (Butch)
As a senior, Smith was one of just two Tigers to start all 34 games for LSU that season. The captain averaged 12.5 points, seven rebounds and 2.2 assists, earning himself a spot on the Second-Team All-SEC squad. That came after a junior season where Jabari averaged 12.7 points, 9.7 rebounds (second-best in the SEC) and 1.9 blocks per game.
But it was in the 2000 NCAA
Tournament that Smith delivered some of his most solid performances as a Tiger
for the fourth-seeded Tigers. In an opening round 64-61 win over
"I just felt that we could have gone further," Smith said of that 2000 team. "That was my last game at LSU and is the game that will stick with me the most."
Getting the chance to play for current head coach John Brady was one of the highlights of Smith's time at LSU.
"Coach Brady was a no-nonsense kind of guy," he said. "He has established himself well. He put in his offense and let us know what he wanted and what he didn't. He told us what style we were going to play. He and his staff did a good job of getting us to buy into what he was trying to do. He's a great coach and believes in his players. He gives us freedom to be ourselves. You couldn't ask for a more understanding coach as a player."
In 2000, with a solid college
career in the books, Smith, like many other college seniors, shifted his focus
toward the NBA and the upcoming draft. On draft night, he went in the second
"It was surprising to go in the
second round," he admitted. "I thought I would go in the first round, but it
didn't work out that way. I ended up with a team that fit my game the best and
Smith played in just nine games for the Kings during the 1999-2000 campaign. But from almost the first time he hit the NBA hardwood, he noticed several huge differences between life in the Association and in the NCAA.
"The longer season was a big adjustment," he said. "You definitely had to be more intense. The whole 82-game season and the size of the players made it totally different than college basketball."
He spent the following season in
It was that injury that led to him playing abroad.
"Well, I had a knee injury at the
end of the 2005 season that got me off to a slow start in 2006," he recalled.
"It continued on where I couldn't get into (an NBA) training camp. So, I had no
choice but to go overseas. I played in
Even though Smith got to spend part
of his time in
"I hated it," he admitted. "For one, I didn't get paid and that was the worst thing. You don't worry about the country when you go overseas because you know it's not going to be like home. You always want to get paid and when you don't, that's a great big wrinkle in everything. A lot of teams over there sign guys to big contracts, say this and that but it's not like here, when you go to get paid and get your money on time. They pay you when they want to over there."
Besides having problems with getting paid on time while abroad, Smith also noticed a pretty major difference between hoops over there and how the game is played stateside.
"The style of play is definitely different," he said. "It's a lot more physical overseas but the talent is better in the NBA. It's all about the money. I don't know where that came from. It's OK for us to go over there and get paid when they want to pay us. But if they come over here, they can be the worst player in the NBA and still leave with money. It's not like that over there."
That is what led Smith to the NBA Summer League. He is one of a number of ex-Tigers, along with Brandon Bass, Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Livingston and Tyrus Thomas, playing on the circuit, a welcome sight to the big guy.
"It's just family," Smith said. "I
see LSU guys out there a lot. I have known Randy (
Smith's goals with the Lakers' summer league team were fairly simple. "I just want to get my feet wet again," he said. "I haven't played in a couple of years and just want to get my rhythm back and get the timing of the game back."
"Speed is the thing that gets you
the most when you have been out," he said. "Me being 30, I know that Randy
While he is remaining mum about his
possibilities about which NBA training camp roster he could land on, Smith
admits that a spot in either
"I would be honored to play there
It might have been a few years
since LSU fans have heard from former center Jabari Smith, but the big guy has
definitely been keeping busy. He has been playing in
With Tyrus Thomas emerging as a star in Chicago, Glen "Big Baby" Davis beginning what looks to be a promising pro career in Boston, Livingston still scratching and clawing his way back into the Association, what a great story it would be for Smith to add his name to the group of former LSU stars currently in the Association. The ending on this story won't be written until later this year, but no matter how it finishes, it should be a great storyline to follow.