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Basketball Recruiting

Late Night Q&A: Top-5 senior & Arkansas signee Nick Smith Jr.

January 21, 2022
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I recall first connecting and watching Nick Smith Jr. during his sophomore campaign and thinking to myself  “this kid is going to be a stud.” I think everyone who has come across the 6’5, 185-pound North Little Rock star, has believed that his upside is through the roof.

One word I'd use to describe Nick Smith Jr’s high school career: Growth.

Every single season he has grown and developed his game. Progression has been key for Smith Jr. and he has proven to do just that. As a sophomore, Smith Jr. averaged nearly 21.5 points per game to go with three boards, three steals, and two assists.

His junior campaign? Growth was evident. He bolstered his scoring average to 25 points per game along with five rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Point is, he just gets better and better.

After that dominant junior year, Smith Jr. put his focus on Peach Jam. Entering the event he’d been dealing with a wrist injury, one that people thought would either hold him out or affect his play in the summer’s top event. As expected, he battled through it and was a vital piece for Brad Beal Elite, helping lead them to a 6-2 record and a hard-fought finals appearance.

In that very finals matchup, Smith Jr. finished with 31 points, a feat that hasn’t occurred since Michael Porter Jr. recorded a 30-point game a few years ago at Peach. Brad Beal Elite had been down in the final minutes and Smith Jr. caught fire and almost led them to a comeback, but, fell just short. 

Now, as a senior, Smith Jr. is standing tall as a consensus five-star and without a doubt in my mind, is a Top-five recruit in the class of 2022. He’s dominated, and alongside Oregon signee Kel’El Ware, North Little Rock has been a problem all year long.

“It’s been fun playing with him [Kel’El]. It’s good preparation for me and him this year, so next year we’ll be used to playing other high-level talents in college,” Smith Jr. said.

Recently, Smith Jr. has had a 36-point game which was followed by a 29-point game, both resulting in wins for North Little Rock.

I asked him why he’s a top prospect in America:

“Because I feel like I’m unique. I don’t do one thing and everyone is starting to see that and I just love to compete at the highest level.”

It’s been great watching Smith Jr. at 100% because I mean yeah, he played at Peach Jam, but wasn’t at full strength after playing with his wrist injury. So, how does Smith Jr. feel about his play this season?

“My season has been good so far. When I first came back from injury it was tough because I couldn’t do anything for three months, but, I had to get used to playing again and getting in shape and now I got it rolling so I just have to keep working.”

I also asked Smith Jr. what aspects of his game have improved this year, his answer:

“My playmaking ability, honestly. Being able to switch from a two-guard to a point guard. Knowing how to play both positions is very important as you go on to the next level.”

On September 29th, Smith Jr. made the decision to commit to the Arkansas Razorbacks and Eric Musselman. He became the first five-star prospect since Bobby Portis in 2013 to pledge his commitment to the Hogs.

There were many factors that went into his commitment and one of those was ultimately playing for Eric Musselman and the relationship he’s continuing to build with his future head coach.

“Muss and I talk like every day. Sometimes he just calls to check on me and I’ll call him to get knowledge on the game, and his coaching staff. It’s definitely a strong relationship we built.”

Smith Jr. has plans to attend the Razorbacks matchup with Texas A&M tomorrow (1/22).

His thoughts on this year’s Arkansas squad, are as followed:

“They have a lot of potential. I’ll say I can see how I can fit in their program right now and my ability to score. I know that they’ll bounce back from hard times and just lock in and prepare for more SEC play.”

Smith Jr. is rolling this season and I expect it to continue as he will then start his journey with the Arkansas Razorbacks in a few months where I ultimately expect him to become a first-round draft pick. 

 
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