By Joshua Casazza
Former Maryland Terrapins men’s basketball forward Jalen Smith was selected by the Phoenix Suns in the first round, with the 10th overall pick of the 2020 NBA draft.
“I couldn’t be happier for Jalen and his family tonight. Jalen entered our program with a plan and put in the work to turn his dream into a reality,” said Maryland men’s basketball head coach Mark Turgeon. “To be selected in the top 10 makes it that much more special. I have no doubt Jalen is destined for great things and can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future.”
Smith, a Portsmouth, Virginia native, played basketball at Mount Saint Joseph High School in Baltimore before attending the University of Maryland.
Smith is coming off a sophomore campaign in which he averaged 15.5 points with a 53.9% shooting from the field. He also added 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. At the end of the season, Smith had 21 double-doubles and was a finalist for the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award.
“First of all, he is a high character kid and very respectful,” said Maryland men’s basketball assistant coach Bino Ranson. “What makes him a top 10 level prospect is his skill and his ability to make shots. He is a willing rebounder and a good defender.”
Smith, nicknamed “Stix,” is the highest Terp drafted since Center Alex Len, taking fifth overall by the Suns in the 2013 NBA draft. After they drafted Smith, the Suns got in on the fun, briefly changing its official Twitter name to the “PhoenSTIX Suns.”
The Suns finished with a 34-39 record last season placing them 10th in the Western Conference. On Nov. 16, the Suns traded for All-Star guard Chris Paul and Abdel Nader. Phoenix and their fans are hoping these additions will push the Suns into the postseason next year.
The projected depth chart for the Suns currently features Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder and Deandre Ayton. Smith will likely see time as both center and power forward throughout his rookie year.
“The thing with today’s NBA game, outside of Ayton, it’s really interchangeable. We saw Dario play everything from a 3 to a 5,” said the Suns television play-by-play commentator Kevin Ray. “That is what today’s NBA game calls for, so yeah I see Jaylen being utilized in a couple of those different situations because of his ability to shoot the rock from deep.”