Sandy Creek’s Smith making name for himself

Sandy Creek’s Jabari Smith has basketball in his bloodlines.

His father, Jabari Smith Sr., parlayed a high school career at Booker T. Washington High School into a professional career that spanned a decade, including stints with the Kings, 76ers and Nets and overseas. His distant cousin is Brunswick’s Kwame Brown, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2001 draft, who played 13 seasons in the NBA. Now the 6-foot-8 Smith, a class of 2021 four-star wing player, is trying to make a name for himself. He holds scholarship offers from Georgia Tech, Georgia and Ole Miss, among others.

Although Smith is only a sophomore, he already has more than a decade of extensive basketball experience.

“I used to wake both him and his brother at 5:30 a.m. to do footwork drills,” Smith Sr. said. “He was 5, going on 6, and he’s been at it ever since.”

While waking up that early to do footwork drills may not seem like a 5-year-old’s ideal start to the day, Smith didn’t mind.

“I really enjoyed it,” he said.

Because of his father’s basketball career, Smith was always around the game, absorbing tips on fundamentals and even gaining exposure to the lifestyle of a pro. He recalls traveling with his parents to China at age 5, when his father was playing overseas.

“I remember being on the court before the game started and watching the game,” he said. “I don’t remember much except for how different it was there.”

From a fundamental standpoint, Smith Sr. knew the game was evolving and trained his sons early on to be as versatile as possible. During the summer, Smith grew four inches to his current height, but before that he struggled from an athletic standpoint. For Smith Sr., that meant perfecting his technique early.

“I basically taught him from the ground up,” Smith Sr. said. “Most kids learn from an athletic standpoint. Jabari wasn’t as athletic, so he had to learn a different way. Reverse pivots, face-up pivots. Being an extremely good shooter and rebounder. Shot blocking. Now his athleticism is picking up, and it’s been a joy watching him turn the curve.”

Colleges are noticing him. He holds five scholarship offers, and his father’s alma mater, LSU, and Georgetown are beginning to show interest. Schools like him for the versatility his father instilled, which includes an inside-out shooting game and the ability to stuff the stat sheet.

In 19 games for second-ranked Sandy Creek (16-3) of Class AAAA, Smith is averaging 12.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, two assists, 1.1 steals and 2.3 blocks. This is his first season logging regular minutes at the varsity level.

Sandy Creek’s highlights include a 110-106 triple overtime victory against Class AAAAAA Dacula on Dec. 14 and victories against AAAAA’s No. 6 Lithonia and AAA’s No. 2 GAC. The only losses came against AAAAA’s No. 2 Fayette County (twice) and AAAAAAA’s No. 3 East Coweta.

As Smith’s recruitment picks up, his focus is on helping the Patriots to the first title in program history.

“I think that’s very realistic,” he said. “We started slow, but we’ve picked it up a lot and we’ve gotten a lot better. I think we’ll finish strong.”