After his official visit over the weekend to Lubbock, Zhaire Smith admitted he had a good idea of where he wanted to play college basketball.
Smith, a 6-foot-5, 180-pound shooting guard at Garland Lakeview Centennial High School, narrowed down his list to Texas Tech and Texas at the beginning of the week before deciding he would pick one at a 1:30 p.m. Thursday inside the high school gymnasium.
After announcing to a large group of the student body that he would be a Red Raider, the four-star prospect put on a black hat with a red Texas Tech logo and made the traditional “Guns Up” hand signal.
“It was a great day today,” Smith said by phone following his ceremony. “I’m glad to finally be a part of Texas Tech.”
Smith’s journey, which ended on the second day of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball spring signing period that runs from April 12-May 17, was certainly a long one that technically started back during his freshman season.
“He was one of the most athletic kids I’d ever seen, but didn’t know how to play basketball,” said Garland Lakeview Centennial head coach J.T. Locklear, who noted Smith needed to develop his skills to become a better player. “But his work ethic over the next four years helped him become a highly-rated recruit. … I’m just proud of him.”
Things didn’t warm up until last December when Smith turned in a strong showing at the Whataburger Tournament, which caught the attention of a few college coaches.
From that point on, Smith was beginning to see his recruitment pick up in a big way as he heard from multiple colleges including Texas Tech, Texas, Arkansas, Oregon and Georgia Tech
“He was getting a lot of low-major looks early and when he played well in the Whataburger Tournament, a lot of coaches heard about it or saw him,” Locklear said. “He had three spectacular games in a row and coaches took notice.
“All of that attention was knew for him. But, he didn’t let it bother him. Instead, he focused and played better.”
After his breakout tournament, Smith stayed even-keeled and finished off his senior campaign strong. He averaged 20.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and three assists per game last season for the Patriots, who finished with a 29-4 overall record.
“I would tell any college coaches that he’s about 6-4 and half, but had a 6-10, 6-9 reach, so he is real versatile on the defensive end,” Garland Lakeview Centennial head coach J.T. Locklear said. “More important, I’d always mention that he will make two or three plays that most humans cannot make sometimes. … When I’d see them, I’d have to look at my bench and as if I really just saw what happened.”
The shooting guard was interested in Texas Tech, Texas, Oregon, Arkansas and Georgia Tech.
“I had a feeling he might pick Texas Tech when he got back from his visit,” Locklear said. “When you coach someone for four years, you can get an idea of their mindset just by looking at them sometimes. And the excitement he had on his face showed he enjoyed his visit. … I just felt Lubbock fits who he is personality-wise. And, player-wise, coach Beard will love him in his motion offense.”
But, he paired down the list Monday to the Red Raiders and Longhorns — whom he both officially visted in the past two weeks — before making his ultimate decision Thursday in front of a large crowd gathered inside his high school gym.
“It always came down to academics for me,” Smith said. “Texas Tech has good academics and coach Beard and his staff were always truthful to me. I felt like I could trust them.”
Smith, who expects to be on campus by June 3-4, joins a 2017 signing class that includes Coronado’s Jarrett Culver, Gainseville (Fla.) Rock School’s Daniel Mading, South Plains College’s Josh Webster, Trinity Valley Community College’s Hyron Edwards, DePaul transfer Tommy Hamilton and Florida transfer Brandone Francis.
Culver, Mading and Smith are high school prospects.
“Fans are going to get a high-motor player that never takes a play off on offensive or defense,” Smith said. “I’ve played in the motion offense and I’m used to doing down screens and everything else. The best part about the offense is someone will always get open.
“I’m looking forward to having a great journey with Texas Tech.”