By Lynda Wolfe Smith
Jabari Smith, Jr., the 2022 NBA draft presented on June 23 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, has close East Atlanta ties. He played college basketball for the Auburn Tigers, was an All American, and he was elected third overall by the Houston Rockets in the NBA 2022 draft.
At the age of 18, his many accomplishments have included the United States Basketball Writers Association Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Year, National Association of Basketball Coaches ABC Division I Freshman of the Year, and the John R. Wooden Award Presented by Wendy’s All-American Team.
Jabari attributes his success to his father. He started his basketball career at an early age and subsequently played varsity basketball as a sophomore at Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, Georgia. As a junior, he averaged 24.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game. In his senior season, Smith averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds, three steals, and three blocks per game, leading his team to a Class 3A state runner-up finish.
He was named Mr. Georgia Basketball, Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution All-Classification Player of the Year. Smith was selected to the rosters for the McDonald’s All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic, and Nike Hoop Summit. He competed for the Atlanta Celtics on the Amateur Athletic Union circuit.
Jabari Jr.’s time growing up was intertwined with spending precious visits, including most summers, with family in East Atlanta. This included stays with his grandmother, Lynda Wolfe Smith (yours truly); his aunt Ebony Smith Boswell; and his father Jabari Smith Sr. In fact, I have been an East Atlanta neighbor for 40 years, with a career teaching in the Atlanta Public Schools; I retired from Maynard Jackson High School. My son, Jabari Smith, Sr., also had a career in the NBA — he was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 2000. As Jabari Jr.’s mother has stated, “It was East Atlanta, the neighbors, friends, and my church who provided the love and stability every family needs.”