After two years with Maryland men’s basketball, Jalen Smith is headed to the next level.
The 6-foot-10 sophomore forward declared for the 2020 NBA Draft April 7. He announced his decision on Twitter, and the program later released a statement confirming Smith is forgoing his remaining eligibility.
“After consultation with my family and coaches, I am thankful and grateful to announce that the time is right for me to move forward to the next phase in my basketball career and declare for the 2020 NBA Draft,” Smith said in the release. “I am thankful to the coaches and staff at the University of Maryland who afforded me the opportunity to stay home to receive an education and play basketball at the college of my dreams.”
Smith turned in a dominant sophomore season, averaging 15.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. He notched 21 double-doubles in 31 contests, third most in program history. The Baltimore native earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and a slew of All-American nods at season’s end.
It’s been a quick development for Smith at Maryland. While he was a five-star prospect ranked No. 16 in the country by the 247Sports Composite, “Stix” entered college weighing in at just 195 pounds.
As a freshman, Smith started 33 games and averaged 11.7 points and 6.8 boards for a young Terps team that came within a couple bounces of the Sweet 16. He looked overwhelmed by the physicality of the college game at times, but he showed regular flashes of his potential. He turned a corner in the NCAA Tournament, posting 19 points and 12 rebounds in Maryland’s first-round win against Belmont and hitting the game-tying three against LSU as part of a 15-point, eight-board performance.
While Smith likely could have been a late draft pick in 2019, he opted to not even declare and focus on preparing for his sophomore year at Maryland. He continued to build strength and was listed at 225 pounds this past season. His outside shot was also more consistent throughout the year, as Smith jumped from a 26.8 percent 3-point shooter to 36.8 percent (41.2 percent in conference games).
It was one loaded stat line after another. Smith tossed up 19 points and 11 rebounds against Rhode Island in November, then 15 points, 16 boards and five blocks against Notre Dame in December. His breakout stretch came in late January, when he recorded 25 and 11 at Northwestern before topping himself with 29, 11 and the game-winning bucket at Indiana.
Smith put up 18 and 14 against Luka Garza and Iowa Jan. 30. He tallied a stunning 22 and 19 against Northwestern at home. And in his final game as a Terp before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the postseason, Smith dropped 18 and 11 on Michigan, highlighted by this first-half buzzer-beater.
Smith is No. 30 on ESPN’s top-100 draft prospects list, while CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish has him going 20th in his updated mock draft. Projections have him anywhere from the middle of the first round to the middle of the second. It’s unclear how the COVID-19 fallout will affect the draft process, but Smith will have nearly three months to improve his stock.
Maryland, meanwhile, doesn’t have an obvious replacement lined up in the frontcourt. After twin centers Makhi and Makhel Mitchell transferred midseason, power forward Ricky Lindo Jr. entered the transfer portal March 30. As of now, the Terps have just Joshua Tomaic — a redshirt senior who’s never seen significant time — and Chol Marial — a 7-foot-2 center who’s battled injuries for years — as options at center. Maryland’s in the market for Yale graduate transfer Jordan Bruner and perhaps others, but the outlook is murky.
The NBA draft is slated for June 25.
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