Jabari Smith declares for 2022 NBA Draft: Auburn star departing for pros after standout freshman season

Auburn forward Jabari Smith announced Tuesday that he is declaring for the 2022 NBA Draft after a standout freshman season with the Tigers. Smith won SEC Freshman of the Year and helped Auburn to an SEC regular-season title while earning third-team All-America honors from CBS Sports.

Smith is regarded as a lock to be a lottery pick in the draft and should contend to be the No. 1 overall selection. The 6-10 former five-star prospect averaged 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Tigers while shooting 42% from 3-point range. Smith also proved to be a quality defender during his lone season of college basketball while playing alongside 7-footer Walker Kessler in the Auburn frontcourt.

For an Auburn team coming off a 13-14 season in 2020-21, the standout play of Smith helped reverse the program’s fortunes. It became clear early that the Tigers had a special player on their hands when Smith averaged 19.3 points on 40% 3-point shooting during games against UConn, Loyola Chicago and Syracuse during the Battle 4 Atlantis in November. As the Tigers rattled off 19 straight victories between late November and early February, Smith helped lead the charge offensively with his efficient offensive game.

Auburn also ascended to No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for the first time in program history during that span. Though the Tigers faltered a bit late, they still earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before losing to Miami in the second round.

“Auburn will forever be my home,” Smith said in a video announcing his decision. “It will be a place that is going to be a part of me forever. The long hours in the gym and the weight room have given me this opportunity and a chance to chase my dream of playing in the NBA.”

Jabari Smith’s NBA Draft projection

At the next level, Smith will likely slot in as a stretch four and be capable of guarding multiple positions because of his length and athleticism. Though still lean…

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