LAS VEGAS -- The very vocal relative of an opposing player during Team Superstar 16U’s July 24 Fab 48 match-up didn’t know much about Jadé Smith. She likely didn’t know that Smith has been widely regarded by many as the best player to come out of Alameda (Calif.) St. Joseph’s Notre Dame since one Jason Kidd. All she knew was that Smith shot an airball.
Every time he ran up and down the court, he heard it, loud and clear: “AIR BALL! AIR BALL!”
“I don’t really care about the crowd,” Smith says. “They’re not in the game, they’re not bothering me, so I don’t trip off of that, but I hear it. It doesn’t bother me, I just play my game.”
That game, while developing, is already very strong. Smith is a long – but lean – 6-foot-2 and growing, and is one of the best point guards in the west for the class of 2017. He shows an already advanced ability to slash and drive, with superior court vision and a tenacious, active disposition on defense. In his highlights, he makes the long, cross-court passes, the no-look bounce passes, closes out on three-point shooters and can alter shots in the mid-range game.
His shooting touch is inconsistent, but he shows great body control around the rim and at the baseline. His game is not finished, by any means, but he has the work ethic to polish it up.
“I need a more consistent shot, and [to work on] my body,” Smith says. “I just need to get stronger.”
Several teams have already taken notice, and he has early offers from San Diego State, Montana, San Jose State, Utah, New Mexico and Nevada. Northwestern was also in the stands to watch Smith last month in Las Vegas, as was California – Kidd’s alma mater, and the school closest to his home.
“I haven’t visited anywhere yet. I want to visit San Diego State and pretty much most of the schools that have contacted me,” Smith says. “I’ve been to Cal multiple times. It wasn’t an unofficial or anything, but I’ve been to Cal multiple times to watch their games and to visit the school with my middle school and stuff.”
The Golden Bears – who just finished a trip to Australia with five-star freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb leading the way – have been one of the schools recruiting Smith the hardest, in the person of assistant Yanni Hufnagel (“He’s really cool,” Smith says).
One of the biggest factors in Smith’s recruiting, as he enters his junior year, is comfort with the coaching staff he’ll ultimately choose, whoever that ends up being.
“I just want a good relationship with the coaching staff, and just the environment I would like to be in,” says Smith. “The best part is having a college where I like the coaching staff, where I feel comfortable.”
Hufnagel and Cuonzo Martin have proven their local recruiting chops in landing Rabb, but with the Spartans and the Grizzlies – armed with former Cal assistant and current head coach Travis DeCuire, and Oakland native Chris Cobb (a former assistant at Chico State) – coming hard, the Bears aren’t the only school pitching Bay Area ties.
“[Cobb] is from the Bay Area, so I think that’s a great thing, too,” says Smith. “He can relate to stuff about me, so that’s a good thing, too.”
Portland and Colorado have also recently gotten into the mix, but the Bears, Grizzlies and Aztecs seem to be the top group that this point.
“They come to a lot of my games, they contact me a lot, they check up on me – different stuff, just talking to me, not even about recruiting,” Smith says. “That’s what I like.”
This Sunday, Smith will play in the Prep2Prep California All-Star Classic, along with other NorCal standouts Alfred Hollins and Damari Milstead, against a team of SoCal all-stars that features UCLA commit Jalen Hill, 2017 five-star Jaylen Hands, Bishop Alemany guard Ernie Sears and the Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon trio of Remy Martin, Ira Lee and Cody Riley.