COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WDVM) – On Wednesday, University of Maryland star Jalen Smith was selected 10th overall by the Phoenix Suns, in the NBA Draft.
“One, I think they’re getting a winner.” said Pat Clatchey, Head basketball coach at Mount St. Joseph, & Jalen’s high school coach. “A guy who won championships at the high school level, won national championships at the AAU level. And in two years, helped Maryland win a Big Ten championship. So they are getting a guy who is accustomed to winning, one who knows what it takes to win. But also playing within the team concept.”
Jalen finished his sophomore season with the Maryland Terrapins averaging a double-double; scoring 15.5 points (16.8 in conference play), 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks.
“I’ve actually known Jalen since he was about nine or ten years old.” said Coach Clatchey, “I used to watch him at camps, growing up, and then he started coming to our camps. I think by the time he was a freshman/sophomore in high school, I think people realized he would have a chance to be a pro player, an NBA player.”
Jalen finished his high school career with a shower of accolades; from a McDonald’s All American selection, 2x Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year, and ranked #15 on the ESPN Top 100. He averaged 23 points, 12.5 rebounds and three blocks as a senior at Mount Saint Joseph.
“Once he got to Maryland, and I give Maryland and Kyle Tarp (Maryland’s Director of Basketball Performance) a lot of credit, the big issue was his body.” said Coach Clatchey, “Well once he put on that thirty pounds of muscle, that was a game changer. I mean he had the skillset, he had the athleticism, but you know, he had the finesse but he had some power to back it up.”
“We felt good about #9, #10, and #13 before the draft, and there was a couple other numbers after that. And we knew that Phoenix really liked him.” said Head Coach Mark Turgeon in a press conference on Thursday, “I love when people, you know what’s the difference between the 10th and 20th best player in the draft, it’s all someone’s opinion. But for Jalen, it was terrific to go No. 10, most importantly we think he is in a really good situation.”
The Phoenix Suns are bolstered by their marquee trade in the offseason, acquiring Chris Paul, and pairing him alongside Devin Booker. Smith is expected to share a role, playing alongside the 2018 No. 1 overall pick, DeAndre Ayton.
“He’ll play the power forward most of the time when he is there.” said Coach Turgeon, “I did a radio show this (Thursday) morning in Phoenix, the NBA has gotten so small they were worried if they could play together. And they can, because they can both shoot threes, and spread the floor, and both great athletes. The thing about Jalen is, he doesn’t get enough credit for his defense, just how smart he is, his basketball I.Q defensively, and all the things he can do defensively. So I think they are going to fall in love with that part of it.”
“He’s worked his tail off since COVID hit, he’s been in the gym almost everyday.” said Coach Turgeon, “He’s really improved his shot, his shot was good for us last year, but it’s even tighter and better, and my biggest concern was his handle, and he’s worked really hard, he became a much better dribbler for us. Really it’s the next step for him, especially cause the NBA is so open. He’s going to help them, I think he’s going to help them right away, they love him, they had the guts to pick him at 10 so they obviously have a plan for him, and I think he’s gonna have a chance to make an impact right away.”
“Big night to be drafted into the NBA, and then your projection – where you were supposed to get drafted – you get drafted a little bit sooner than you thought, coming in at No. 10” said Coach Clatchey, “It was a really cool experience, just to be there (Jalen’s draft party), and just to be a part of his journey as his high school coach.”
Catch the full interview with Pat Clatchey, Head Basketball Coach for Mount Saint Joseph below
Catch the snippet from Mark Turgeon, on Jalen’s fit with the Phoenix Suns below