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The Auburn big man spoke with Yahoo Sports NBA draft analyst Krysten Peek at the Barclays Center after being selected 3rd overall in the 2022 NBA Draft.
KRYSTEN PEEK: I'm Krysten Peek, NBA draft analyst here with the number three pick in the draft, heading to Houston, Jabari Smith. Jabari, this is a huge night for you. What were your emotions like when you finally heard your name called?
JARBARI SMITH: It was a sigh of relief, you know what I mean? Just the anticipation I felt all of these weeks coming up to this point, and especially the 20 minutes before the draft, the five minutes before my name was called. It was just, like, surreal. So when my name was called, I could just take a deep breath and just take it all in.
KRYSTEN PEEK: I mean, I was one of the people that had you going number one. There were a lot of people that had you going number one. Do you feel slighted at all, falling to Houston?
JARBARI SMITH: Not necessarily slighted, but it is what it is. Those players that were selected before me, you know them. You know they're great players, great people. So it's nothing against the teams that picked them, nothing against them. But I will go in with that chip on my shoulder and just ready to prove to everybody, you know.
KRYSTEN PEEK: You only worked out for the Magic and the Thunder. When did you hear from the Rockets? Did they reach out today?
JARBARI SMITH: My agent asked me, did I want to send my medicals and stuff to them so they can at least get a look on me. But when they asked me, I was like, yeah, you know what I mean? If they're interested in me, I'm interested in them, so.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Have you had a conversation with me yet?
JARBARI SMITH: Yes. I had a conversation with, I think that was the general manager who called me. Letting me know that I was a part of the team, I was part of the family. So I had a conversation with them, and I've been walking around this young lady who's been taking me around. So, you know, I'm learning everybody.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Yeah. And yesterday when I saw you, you seemed so relaxed and calm. But you said you didn't think you were going to sleep last night. Not necessarily from nerves, but just being excited. Did that carry over? Were you able to sleep, or were you just nervous, excited for the night?
JARBARI SMITH: I got some hours of sleep. But then when I woke up, you know, I could feel. It like, it's here, you know what I mean? So it was just a whirlwind the whole time, the whole day. Even going to meet the commissioner, eat lunch with him, it was just all a whirlwind. Now that it's all over and I can relax and be a part of the team. It's like, thank god, you know?
KRYSTEN PEEK: Summer league is right around the corner. How excited are you to get back on the court?
JARBARI SMITH: Real excited. You know, I haven't played since the Miami game. I haven't played in so long. So it would be good for when I get back home, be able to play against the guys that are back, a couple of pros and just get back on my team in summer league and just to get to work.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Are you gonna have any extra motivation if you face Orlando or the Thunder this year?
JARBARI SMITH: Um, I have a little bit-- I have the same motivation against every team. But it'll be a little going into it, you know what I mean. So I'm excited.
KRYSTEN PEEK: All right, lastly, you're going in with a young core. Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr. in the backcourt. You're a very good inside out. Like, you shoot the three better than anyone in this class. What are you most looking forward to, being that extra piece with them?
JARBARI SMITH: I'm excited to just make them better, make me better, you know what I mean? Play off each other and just play the right way. Defend, you know what I mean? Defend, and just win games. Ultimately, if we all playing to win, I feel like everything else will take care of itself. So that's what I'm excited to do.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Well, Jabari, thank you so much for the time, and congratulations and good luck next season.
JARBARI SMITH: Thank you.