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2022 NBA draft: Auburn coach Bruce Pearl confident Jabari Smith will go No. 1 and ‘make Orlando win’

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NEW YORK. Finally this day has come. The 2022 NBA draft will take place on Thursday at 8:00 pm, and if they retain the pick, all signs point to the Magic picking Auburn’s Jabari Smith No. 1 overall.

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Smith, a 6-foot-11 forward, played one season with the Auburn, and head coach Bruce Pearl knows exactly what player the Magic will get if they take him first pick.

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“What makes him No. 1? For his size, he’s the best jumper I’ve seen in college in over 20 years,” Pearl told Sportzshala Sports. “He’s as ready as I’ve ever seen and he’s going to make Orlando win.”

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Smith was named the best shot in that draft with an impressive 42% from depth at Auburn. Orlando is desperate for help from the perimeter, having made just 33% of three-pointers last season.

“His approach to the game and his mentality is unlike anything I’ve seen before,” Pearl told Sportzshala Sports. “You can’t be a good jump shooter without the mental toughness to be willing to shoot, take a shot and trust it hits every time it leaves your hand. It’s the same flight of the ball, it’s the same spin every time. … And that’s what the greats have.”

Smith didn’t enter the season with the same buzz in the NBA as Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero, but he was on the radar. Pearl knew Smith was talented and knew he had a great player, but it was after the double overtime loss to UConn at Battle 4 Atlantis that Pearl knew Smith could be the first pick in the draft. Smith had 22 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals.

“That game at the University of Connecticut changed everything,” Pearl told Sportzshala Sports with a shake of his head. “That’s when I realized and really had to say to myself, ‘Okay, this other one.’ Everything he did was based on that. Throughout the season, I had the best player on the court every night in Jabari Smith.”

If Smith hears his name first, he will become the first number 1 pick in Auburn program history.

“Auburn was my home and still is, so it would be very important to put my name in history forever,” Smith told Sportzshala Sports.

“When you walk into our locker room, the first thing you see on the wall is a sign that says ‘Make History,'” Pearl told Sportzshala Sports. “We put this on years ago because there is a great tradition in the history of Auburn basketball and I wanted the guys to come to Auburn to try and contribute to that history. Reach the Final Four in 2019, become the best team in the country last season. for a month. These things are historical. Jabari is arguably the #1 first pick in school history… man, that’s exactly what we’re doing here. We’re here to win championships and we’re here to drag the boys from here to there. [the NBA].”

Pearl will be at the Barclays Center and will be beaming like a proud trainer. Auburn center Walker Kessler is also predicted to make it to the first round, so it’s a big night for Auburn basketball.

In years past, it was a different SEC program and head coach that was the focus in the green room with several first-round picks and a potential No. 1 overall pick. John Calipari and Kentucky have been No. 1 picks three times in the last 12 years. It will be a quieter year with one potential lottery pick in Shedon Sharp (who didn’t play a minute in Kentucky) and combo guard T.I. Washington, who is predicted to be a late first-round pick.

Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl and forward Jabari Smith, who is predicted to be the first overall pick in the NBA draft, during the 2022 NCAA Men's Tournament.  (Kevin K. Cox/Getty Images)
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl and forward Jabari Smith, who is predicted to be the first overall pick in the NBA draft, during the 2022 NCAA Men’s Tournament. (Kevin K. Cox/Getty Images)

Pearl never shirks the cameras, but insists he takes a step back and lets the Smith family enjoy the moment.

“I will stay as far away from the camera as possible,” Pearl told Sportzshala Sports, laughing. “For me, it’s always about seeing grandma and seeing mom and dad. His high school coach and AAU coach, you know? I really want to watch how they like it, and to be honest, it’s about them, it’s about their family.”

If Magic chooses Smith, he will join another Auburn player, Plague Okeke, to which Pearl is overjoyed.

“I have to have a good seat,” Pearl told Sportzshala Sports, laughing. “Perhaps I’ll call [general manager] John Hammond and say, “What do you think, John? Can you help your brother? “

On Wednesday, Smith looked very calm and relaxed. Something rare for a player to be called up to the NBA in less than 24 hours. “I’m ready and excited,” Smith told Sportzshala Sports. “I feel good wherever I go and I’m ready to get to work.”

Smith reached out to Sportzshala Sports senior NBA insider Chris Haynes, saying he would be surprised if he didn’t come first. and care about winning,” Smith said. vI don’t care about statistics. I feel like I can help any team right away. But I feel like I’m the No. 1 choice.”

All indications are that the Magic has taken Smith, and Pearl is confident that he will have a long and successful career in Orlando.

“Jabari is modest, hungry and incredibly hardworking. He’s going to be an NBA star,” Pearl told Sportzshala Sports. “It’s the combination of confidence, preparation, toughness and the will to win that sets him apart from everyone else. And I mean each more. There is no one better in this class.”


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