Texas Tech

NBA draft profile: Texas Tech G Zhaire Smith

NBA draft profile: Texas Tech G Zhaire Smith

Zhaire Smith

Position: Guard

Height: 6-4

Weight: 199

School: Texas Tech

You won’t be able to tell just by looking at him or listening to him talk. Zhaire Smith’s physique isn’t overly imposing and he’s a pretty soft-spoken guy.

Even the numbers wouldn’t be able to explain things for Smith. He averaged a modest 11.3 points and 5.0 rebounds a game as a freshman for Texas Tech in 2017-18.

But if you watch him play, Smith’s game is loud. It’s angry and aggressive.

Smith burst onto the scene with his elite athleticism and active defensive ability to help lead the Red Raiders to the Elite Eight. Now he’s gone from three-star recruit to likely first-round pick.

As mentioned earlier, Smith’s game has a certain bounce. Serious bounce.

The 19-year-old tied for second among all players at the NBA draft combine with a vertical leap of 41.5 inches.

And it’s not just the leaping ability. Smith is fearless when going to the rack. He will dunk over, through and around just about anyone at the rim.

That attitude extends to the defensive side where Smith uses his 6-9 wingspan to terrorize opponents. 

“Defending,” Smith said Tuesday after his pre-draft workout with the Sixers when asked about his go-to skill. “I feel like anybody can score. If you just do that small thing that coach wants you to, you’re good in the league.”

While Smith noted athleticism and defense as his main talents, the rest of his game needs some work. He is the quintessential jack-of-all-trades, master of none. 

Smith can get buckets at times, but he wouldn’t be one of a team’s primary scorers at the next level. He also can set up teammates, but don’t expect him to be a legit playmaker.

Even his shooting percentages at Texas Tech — which were extremely strong — come with a bit of an asterisk. Smith shot 55.6 percent from the field (with a lot of those baskets coming on dunks and put-backs). He even connected on 45.0 percent from three-point range, although that was on 40 total attempts in 37 games.

NBA comparison
There are countless sheer athletes in the NBA, but let’s go with Houston Rockets guard Gerald Green. Both have freakish leaping ability, like to do the dirty work on defense and hail from Texas (Green is from Houston and Smith is a Garland, Texas, native).

How’d he fit with Sixers
The Sixers are trying to make waves right now in the league and don’t have much time for players that can be viewed as projects. Plus, with Markelle Fultz and Justin Anderson already on the roster, there isn’t much room for another slash-first guard.

If Smith were more of a threat from long range, there might be serious consideration. But 18 makes in 40 games doesn’t scream of a guy that’s going to make that his calling card in the NBA.

Draft projection 
Smith said after his workout with the Sixers that he’s hearing he should be selected anywhere from No. 11 to No. 20. That sounds about right for him, which means the Sixers would be taking a risk at No. 10 and aren’t high enough at No. 26 if they wanted to nab him later.

Villanova punches ticket to Final Four with win over Texas Tech

USA Today Images

Villanova punches ticket to Final Four with win over Texas Tech


BOSTON — With all of the underdogs and upsets that have upended the NCAA tournament, no one has managed to come close to Villanova.

The 2016 national champions are headed back to the Final Four, thanks to a fourth straight double-digit victory in a month of March where they've played every bit like the No. 1 seed they earned.

"This tournament's a crazy tournament. Anybody can beat anybody," guard Jalen Brunson said after the Wildcats beat Texas Tech 71-59 in a cold-shooting East regional championship on Sunday to send Villanova back to the Final Four for the second time in three years.

"The underdog mentally, they may have it. But, honestly, they believe they're good. That's why they're in that position. That's (also) why we're in that position," Brunson said. "We're a good team, and we believe we can keep getting better."

The Wildcats (34-4) will play fellow No. 1 seed Kansas, which beat Duke 85-81 in overtime later Sunday. They will join 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago and its telegenic nun, along with No. 3 seed Michigan in the national semifinals on Saturday in San Antonio.

Sister Jean, get ready for Father Rob.

"I very much look forward to meeting Sister Jean," said the Rev. Rob Hagan, the priest on the Villanova bench. "I was 12 years of Catholic School and taught by the nuns. I have great respect for the Nuns. Usually what Sister says is what goes."

But if these two Catholic schools -- one Jesuit, one Augustinian -- meet in the national championship game, the Wildcats won't be without spiritual support of their own.

"He's our rock," said guard Donte DiVincenzo, who scored eight points. "He keeps us level-headed to make sure we don't get too high or too low. So to be able to share that moment with him was actually real fun."

Eric Paschall had 12 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, Brunson scored 15, and DiVincenzo also had eight of the Wildcats' season-high 51 rebounds. After starting four guards, Texas Tech (27-10) grabbed just 33 boards and shot just 18 free throws compared to 35 for Villanova to miss a chance to play for a championship in its home state.

"We knew they were a great three-point shooting team and talented players, but we also knew how tough they were," Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. "We knew the identity of their team was the toughness and physicality, and that proved to be true."

The teams matched each other with 33 percent shooting from the floor -- Villanova's lowest since 2015-- and the Wildcats made just 4 of 24 from beyond the arc. One of the most prolific three-point shooting teams in NCAA history, they need seven to set a Division I single-season record.

They'll get that chance in the Final Four.

"Wasn't really a pretty offensive game. But we played pretty good defensively too," said Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose team spent eight weeks in two different stints as the No. 1 team in The Associated Press Top 25 this season.

"That's why I give Texas Tech credit, they did a great job," Wright said. "But we don't rely on our shooting. There's a lot more to the game. Our guys take pride in that. We never worry about missing shots. It's fun when they go in, but we don't worry about missing them."