Jabari Smith Jr. Believes He’s the Right Guy for the Magic Because of His ‘Will to Win’ and All-Around Basketball Talent

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

ORLANDO - Jabari Smith Jr. is a basketball junkie, so even while he was leading the Auburn Tigers men’s hoops program to new heights this past season, he kept a close eye on everything going on in the NBA. 

Some of the games he watched featured the Orlando Magic. Obviously at the time, he had no idea they would be selecting first in the draft. But, just through the screen, he noticed how cohesive they were and how much spirit they played with.  

“I watch a lot of NBA games, and the games that I did watch of them I could tell how much fun they were having,” he said. “No matter the record or the struggles they faced this season, you’d never guess that their record was what it was. Just watching them play (and) the joy they had, you’ll think they’re playing a game seven of the Finals every game. They are playing to win every game. Nobody is moping around because it’s a tough season. Everybody’s still got that pop and that energy. It was good to see that in this team.”

With the draft quickly approaching, the 19-year-old is more confident than ever that he’s the guy who can take this team to the next level. On Thursday, he got a chance to showcase his skills in front of the Magic’s brass at the AdventHealth Practice Facility at the Amway Center and leave a mark on a franchise hoping to strike gold with the draft’s first overall selection.

On why he should be the Magic’s choice, Smith believes it’s his combination of basketball abilities, mental makeup, and team-first attitude that propels him above the competition.  

“I just feel like my will to win, and I can do so much,” the 6-foot-10, 220-pound forward said. “I feel like I can come in right away and just make an instant impact to any team with my shooting ability, my ability to play defense, get a rebound and push it, ability to guard multiple positions – I feel like that separates me from a lot of people.

I think I can fit in really well. Just seeing the guys and seeing the players – this is a young team, one of the youngest in the league. Adding me will just add another young player who’s hungry and got a lot left in the tank. I’ll add some energy, and just (be) another person who wants to come in and work and get this organization where it needs to be.”

Smith, who averaged 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in his one-and-done season at Auburn playing under head coach Bruce Pearl, is best known for his 3-point shooting and perimeter defense, especially at his size. 

But he wants others to know that he brings so much more to the table, even if it is those traits putting him in the No. 1 overall pick conversation. 

“I think I will be able to show my passing ability, my ability to make the right play, and not settle for tough shots,” he said. “I think my shot selection will improve a lot at the next level – just making the right pass and playing out of ball screens and making the right reads.”

The Magic currently have one former Tiger on their roster in Chuma Okeke. Although they haven’t yet cross paths on the basketball court, as Okeke is four years older, Smith has always marveled at his fellow Atlanta-area native. Another Magic player born and raised in Atlanta that he’s very familiar with and fond of is Wendell Carter Jr., who registered career highs across the board this past season. 

While it was just an audition, Smith got great vibes off Thursday’s workout. Getting advice from Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley was one of the session’s biggest perks.   

“(He was) really watching me and not only was he trying to give me tips to help me get (through) the workout, but he was also pushing me and telling me to do different things, and not react to certain things,” he said of Mosley. “I’m my toughest critic. I’m real hard on myself, but he was telling me just don’t worry about it. Treat it like you are back at home working out.”

The only other team Smith says he will work out for are the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have the second overall selection in this year’s draft.

Draft Workouts: Jabari Smith Jr.

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