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Top-five senior Smith commits to Auburn, Pearl

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  • Jeff Borzello

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    ESPN Staff Writer

    • Basketball recruiting insider.
    • Joined ESPN in 2014.
    • Graduate of University of Delaware.
  • Paul Biancardi

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    Basketball Recruiting

    • National Recruiting Director for ESPN.com
    • 18 years of coaching experience at Division I level
    • Former Horizon League coach of the year at Wright State

Top-five senior Jabari Smith committed to Auburn on Friday, giving the Tigers their highest-ranked recruit since at least 2007.

Smith chose Bruce Pearl’s program out of a final list that also included Tennessee, Georgia, LSU, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Smith has spoken before about going the G League route, but Auburn ultimately won out.

“It is close to home, maybe an hour and 30 minutes away from my house. Not far at all,” Smith told ESPN. “Their style of play is free and fast. Auburn is known for their defense. Playing for Coach Pearl will help me become a stronger two-way player. I noticed how much Coach Pearl loves his players.

“A few big factors in my decision were how much he has won at the highest level, competes for championships and how his players have [gone] to the next level. Hopefully we can go back to a Final Four and further. It is the best fit for me.”

Smith, a 6-foot-8 power forward from Sandy Creek High School (Georgia), is ranked No. 5 in the ESPN 100 for the 2021 class. He’s the highest-ranked Auburn recruit since the ESPN recruiting database began in 2007, and the fourth five-star prospect Pearl has landed since taking over the Tigers in 2014.

Smith averaged 24.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks last season for Sandy Creek, and also won a gold medal with USA Basketball at the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Brazil after averaging 13.8 points and 6.2 rebounds.

The ultimate inside-out forward, Smith has a legitimate jump hook that he goes to on the left block to finish in the middle of the paint. His fluid stroke behind the arc makes him a 3-point threat, and his driving, passing and scoring talent in the midrange area are evident. He’s a more-than-dependable rebounder and will block shots. He’s a true mismatch who will be able to take contact better as his body fills out.

Pearl continues to have plenty of success in the state of Georgia, with Smith following ESPN 100 prospects Sharife Cooper and J.T. Thor from the 2020 class and projected lottery pick Isaac Okoro from the 2019 class as Auburn recruits from the Peach State.

Smith is the first Auburn commit in the 2021 class, but the Tigers are also in the mix for Trey Alexander, Moussa Diabate and others.

“My mind was made up so now is the perfect time,” Smith said. “This decision gets the everyday pressure off and allows me to concentrate on my high school season and winning a state championship.”

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