From relative obscurity on a lesser-known AAU team, Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith has ascended into the conversation of potential lottery picks in June’s NBA draft.
We probably should have seen it coming; ascending, as evidenced by his early entry for the dunk of the 2018 NCAA tournament, is kind of his thing.
During his Red Raiders’ victory over the No. 14 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks on the first real day of the tourney, Smith fielded an errant alley-oop toss from teammate Keenan Evans by turning around in midair, only to continue spinning to pound the ball through the hoop for a nearly unheard-of in-game 360 alley-oop.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 16, 2018
That deserves looks from roughly 90 billion more angles.
360 ALLEY OOP IN A TOURNAMENT GAME! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? pic.twitter.com/lVCfYhaua4
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 15, 2018
There’s some debate about whether this was a 360 alley-oop or merely a 180. But he’s facing the opposing team’s basket when he takes off, and he’s facing the opposing team’s basket when he lands. He might not have completed a full turn by the time the ball went through, but he spun around 360 degrees between takeoff and landing. That’s a 360, haters.
As a draft prospect, Smith’s court awareness and ability to fly are his primary assets, and he uses them on both ends of the floor. Despite his being a 6’5″ guard, Smith blocks one shot per game in addition to committing 1.2 steals per game. Offensively, he’s an expert at moving without the ball for easy — or, in this case, easy for him and him only — buckets, and he’s a smart, unselfish passer.