Jordan Smith’s rep is as a shooter. And it’s well-earned.
Talk to him or his coach, take a peek at the stats, look at how other teams defend him – it’s obvious this is a guy that can fill it up from the outside.
And indeed, there are worse things than being known as a lights-out marksman.
But while Smith doesn’t mind being known for his offensive prowess, well, he also doesn’t want to be known as some one-trick pony. So ask about his game, and shooting is but part of the equation.
As he tells it: “I’d say my shot is my strength right now, but my defense has gotten a lot better. I used to play pretty good defense, but I’ve been doing more agility and strength training, which has really helped.”
Chris Carr, a seven-year ex-NBA vet who coaches Smith’s AAU team, 43 Hoops, says pretty much the same thing. The shooting is there. But more than ever, the defense is there too.
“He’s always had an amazing ability to shoot the basketball. That’s always been his saving grace, so to speak,” said Carr, who played college ball at Southern Illinois and had a two-year stint playing pro in Europe.
“But his defense has been phenomenal. He’s played against some incredible players, and his maturity and his approach have really come a long way from a few a years ago.”
Despite the recent onus on defense, it’s that buttery jump shot will probably remain Smith’s trademark. Not that the rest of his game is lagging. Again, it’s just that the jumper is so pure.
“He’s just one of those guys who’s been blessed with an unbelievably polished stroke,” Carr said.
Smith, a 6-foot-1 junior-to-be, has parlayed that stroke into some staggering numbers. The Orono High School (Long Lake, Minn.) product averaged 16.5 points as a freshman, netting double figures in all but six of his 26 games. And last season as a sophomore, Smith upped his scoring output to about 24 per contest. He notched a 49-point performance to go along with three games of at least 30.
So yeah, dude can shoot the ball.
But will he ever shoot it for Northwestern? No one knows yet, of course. What is known, however, is that Smith plans to attend NU’s camp in August. And what’s more, the 3.8 student has a book-worm side to go with his formidable gym-rat side.
“Academics is really big for me,” Smith said. “So I’m trying to go to a school that’s known for their academics, and Northwestern obviously is. And they have a nice, big campus which you would be fun as well....
“A couple of my friends from my neighborhood actually went to Northwestern and they loved their experience there. And as far as education, I’m tying to think about life after basketball.”
And what exactly will that life after hoops be?
“I have no idea,” Smith said with a laugh. “I’m just trying to get an education to get me there.”
Right now, Smith doesn’t hold any Division I offers. That’s not to say, though, that schools haven’t taken note.
He camped at Iowa State and Wisconsin earlier this year. And according to Carr, there’s a laundry list of teams to have shown interest: Oregon State, Miami (Ohio), Rice, Minnesota and Purdue.
Carr also said that he would liken colleges’ interest in Smith as a rising junior to that of Anthony Tucker, also a guard who played on Carr’s 43 Hoops team now playing at Iowa.
Neither Smith nor Carr seemed concerned about the current dearth of official offers. After all, Smith is just 16. And besides, he’s a player who – already solid – is constantly getting better.
“I think he’s really matured mentally,” said Carr, who first started working with Smith as a seventh-grader. “I think he’s doing a phenomenal job. He’s really been getting after it, shooting the ball really well.
“He’s getting defended a lot differently now than he was a couple of years ago – he’s such a shot-maker....But he’s been doing a great job, making shots when we need him to and playing tough physical defense. And as a result the team’s been winning.”
And this summer, Smith is trying to win a few offers as well.
“Basically, just my main focus is the (AAU) circuit right now,” Smith said. “That’s the mainstream recruiting for me. That’s where I try to get all my looks from, which has worked pretty well. I’m just trying to play as hard as I can and impress some people.”
In the meantime, Smith has already impressed Carr.
“I would say that he is probably deserving of getting an official offer right now,” Carr said. “And whoever gets him is going to get one of the premier shooters in the whole country.”