Jalen Smith comes about his love for hoops, and the Terps for that matter, quite honestly.
You see, as a youngster growing up in Portsmouth, Va., and then Baltimore where he lives now, the Mount St. Joseph’s 6-foot-7 freshman starting center for Coach Pat Clatchey’s squad, would watch closely his father, Charles, in pickup games, and hone in on the purest part of his game, his passing.
“He was unselfish playing the game, always setting up others,” Jalen Smith said. “He would pass before anything else.”
Fast-forward several years and Jalen Smith, who has great vision and anticipation passing the ball for such a young ‘big,’ prides himself on his distributing, just like his pops, a retired military man, back in the day.
The cerebral and versatile Jalen, who is still growing and will likely be a 6-9 power forward by the time he reaches the college level, also gets his love for Maryland (where he visited unofficially last Friday with his parents for a full tour) from his father, “who is like a Maryland basketball fanatic. He wants me to go there already,” Jalen Smith.
Best of all, and maybe a few more pops like this out there would solve some issues, dad holds college mail and contacts from his son “because he doesn’t want me to get a big head,” Jalen said.
Well, we may not be talking "Great Santini" here, but it’s refreshing to hear nonetheless.
The apple hasn’t fallen fall from the tree, as Jalen helped a young Gaels team to 19 wins despite a lot of youth and just his first year starting. And in a game we scouted late last month, Smith’s interior passing and overall ‘feel’ for the game (not to mention his work-ethic on the blocks) impressed us most for the soaking-wet-175-pound reed-thin rookie.
“It was very exciting to start as a big man because when I first came here I didn’t even think I was going to get any playing time. But when I did I just tried to get out there and do the best that I could so I could continue to get more minutes,” Jalen Smith said.
While painfully thin, Smith has always been the tallest on his team so has played – and battled – on the blocks despite his slender, bespectacled frame. This was his first year on varsity, and six games in he became a starter.
Smith averaged about 8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks and a couple assists per game this season.
Smith is all arms and legs, but busy in the weight room and with a high calorie intake to get bigger this off-season. He runs the floor very well, gets his hands on most everything in sight, works hard for rebounds and put-backs, and sees the floor and passes very well. He also has a soft shooting touch.
“I have to work on my offense more to be able to create my own shot and score, while my strength is my defense, blocks and rebounds. My doctors say 6-9, and I could be [at college] a power forward or maybe a small forward,” Smith said.
Smith did not start playing basketball until he was 11 (and he’s only 14 now), and only recently started following the college game. Just like his pops, he loves the Terp, whom they watch all the time on television.
“Maryland, I started to watch them more as I started to play basketball and began idolizing more players and copying my game after them. I copy my game after Jake Layman, and also being a Dez Wells-type player, versatile like that,” Smith said. “And Jake, he can do pretty much anything a big man can do, but also what a point guard can do.”
His Feb. 28!visit to UMD was his first for an organized visit and tour, and he hopes to be back again this spring/summer for pickup ball and other visits.
“The overall atmosphere of being there, I never expected college to be like that. I was just overwhelmed how they concentrated their whole school and life around the players. Their education, the whole thing, it was all very impressive. I toured the arena, I got to hang out and meet a lot of the players, it was a lot of fun.”
On other colleges and suitors he said:
“Well, I know about Maryland, but the rest I don’t know about them. My dad knows about them but he doesn’t like to tell me,” Smith quipped.
Smith doesn’t have any early offers quite yet, while he said: “I really would any college that would push me harder to become a better player, and encourage me to get in a good educational field.”
Smith would like to possibly study computer programming once he gets to college. On a possible Maryland offer if that were to happen, he said:
“It would mean a lot because it would show I am doing well in both areas, as a player and student,” Smith said. “And they have done really well this season because they weren’t really expected to do well, but they have shown and proved everyone wrong,” Smith said.
Finally, about pops, who Jalen said is his constant motivator:
“Yeah, because he knows I can be a great basketball player but I just have to keep putting more work in,” Jalen said.I'm
Meet Terps Recruit Target Jalen Smith
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