For me interviewing overseas ballers on a daily basis is as normal for me as Luka Doncic taking a step back jumper. It is simply what we do best. I love interviewing guys and even if I have interviewed so many there are so many guys that are still missing in my interview collection. So there are many guys I want to interview and then special guys who I really really want to interview and are still missing in my interview collection. So recently, I checked the new Basketball Champions League group of the Telekom Baskets Bonn and checked the 3 new teams from Turkey, Spain and Lithuania. All teams have interesting candidates, but one guy really stood out from the Turkish squad was Jamar Smith (191-G-1987, college: S.Indiana, agency: Inception Sports). He is a player that has had a stellar career and had success in many places that he has played in and always been consistent. I was really pleased when his agent Chet Irvin had no problem getting me in contact with him. It is always the best when a guy can not only answer my questions, but get back to me rapidly and on top of that answer a ton of questions almost at 40. His quick reply was most appreciative. His biggest claim of fame is probably his Eurocup title and MVP honors coupled with having the Eurocup record of having made the most three pointers in history. His three pointer will always be his bread butter and he definitely can shoot out the lights. He has won 4 titles and wants a 5th with the Basketball Champions League with Bahcesehir Koleji Istanbul this season. ‘It’s definitely a driving force for this year. If I could add the Champions League trophy to my collection that would be crazy. I’m grateful for all the teams I’ve been on and won but this would be even more special because it would be two trophies in two years and that’s why they brought me here They hadn’t won any European competitions and hadn’t played in the cup or playoffs before I got here so that was a challenge for me that made me coming here so interesting. I haven’t not made the playoffs since I can remember and hopefully I can keep that run going’, warned Jamar Smith. Jamar Smith is a player who is still growing strong and wants more titles before his career ends.
Jamar Smith who remembers current NBA player Mike Conley as being his toughest foe in the NCAA was born on April 7th, 1987 in Peoria, Illinois. He began his basketball career at Richwoods high school as a 3 star recruit. He then played 2 seasons at Illinois playing a total of 53 NCAA games. He averaged 8.0ppg, 1.7rpg, 1.3apg, FG: 47%, 3PT: 48.2%, FT: 70.4% as a freshman and as a sophomore averaged 8.1ppg, 1.6rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 33.3%, 3PT: 31.7%, FT: 78.8%. His ride there began well as he led the Big 10 in three point shooting as a freshman and was a Big 10 all freshman team selection. But injuries and some other problems off the court ended his time there. One guy that stood by his side at Illinois was Chester Frazier a player that had a short professional career. He always knew that he had the knack to get into coaching. ‘I thought so because he is a natural leader. He can make a room of people that don’t know him follow him. And he leads by example that’s important for hoopers. I see him now and coaching at the University of Illinois and I can bet my life he laces up and challenges his guys sometimes because that’s just who he is. He is an alpha by nature without all the bark just the bite’, said Jamar Smith. He then decided for a change of scenery and played at the University of Southern Indiana (NCAA2).The start there wasn’t easy as he hadn’t played competitively in almost 2 years, but the long wait and grinding paid off as he had 2 outstanding years. He was able to improve his scoring, rebounding and assists each season averaging 18.5ppg, 2.5rpg, 2.5apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 47.2%, 3PT: 47.6%, FT: 76.4% as a junior and 21.6ppg, 4.1rpg, 3.7apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 46.5%, 3PT: 42.7%, FT: 79.2% as a senior. He took a step back to play in the NCAA 2, but a decision that was spot on. ‘When things change you have to be able to adapt and find your footing for what happens in life. I always had basketball to lean on and became even more focused on just being the best player that I could be. It made me resilient and flexible with change. I think that’s super important when being a pro because things change on teams monthly players coaches strategies you just have to adapt’, warned Jamar Smith. He definitely left his mark at Southern Indiana achieving numerous accolades like All-GLVC First Team 2009 and 2010, GLVC All-Tournament Team -2009, NCAA D2 All-America Honorable Mention (by Division II Bulletin) -09, Daktronics NCAA Division II All-Midwest Region Player of the Year -2010, Daktronics NCAA Division II All-Midwest Region First Team -2010, All-GLVC Player of the Year -2010, NABC Division II All-Midwest Region First Team -2010, NABC Division II All-America Team -2010, Daktronics Division II All-America Second Team -2010, and Division II Player of the Year by Basketball Times -2010. One guy who deserves a lot of credit for allowing him to develop and play a major role was head coach Rodney Watson. ‘He just let me do what I love and he told me to play basketball and don’t take it easy on people’, remembered Jamar Smith who remembers then teammate Brandon Hogg winning some 1-1 battles in practice, but he definitely won more.
After Southern Indiana he participated in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (Pre-NBA Draft) and then had pre draft work outs with NBA teams Charlotte Bobcats, New Jersey Nets, and the Chicago Bulls (NBA). He also took part at the 2010 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He then was signed by the Boston Celtics and played his rookie season with the Maine Red Claws (D-League) averaging 13.6ppg, 2.8rpg, 5.0apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 49.7%, 3PT: 43.2%, FT: 88.9%. He already demonstrated his consistency in his rookie season scoring in double figures in 41 of 48 games. Despite not needing any adjustment period on the court, it was a big change going from the NCAA 2 to the D-League and remembers his wake up call. ‘Living in Maine and being out of Illinois it was my first year not living in my state. But I was committed to the game so it didn’t matter where I lived and played as long as I can play’, stated Jamar Smith. Back then the NBA and D-League still had so many older veterans, but nowadays the league is younger and always getting younger. ‘The league is about being young and having potential now unless you’re an established vet. Soon the game will look like the first space jam because all the players are huge and can all handle the ball and shoot the league is in great hands’, warned Jamar Smith: He hit Austin for 25 points and Sioux Falls for 23 points. After playing 1 game in Venezuela for Guaiqueries de Margarita, he was back at it in the summer of 2011 trying to reach the NBA. He had work outs with the Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, and Chicago Bulls, but nothing came out of it. He decided to go overseas and got his first contract with BK Prostejov (Czech Republic-NBL) playing EuroChallenge averaging 12.8ppg, 3.5rpg, 2.8apg, FGP: 43.6%, 3PT: 35.3%, FT: 87.5%; and in the Czech Republic League averaged 14.9ppg, 3.1rpg, 2.4apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 57.5%, 3PT: 39.3%, FT: 76.5%. Often Americans have big problems adjusting to the culture shock, but once again his game was consistent, but he did have his overseas wake up call. ‘I remember getting lost for practice and being lost for almost two hours. There wasn’t Google maps and stuff like that then they gave you a car and you had to remember your way around town. That was crazy but I made sure after that I had one route memorized for everywhere I needed to go’, added Jamar Smith. He scored in double figures in 48 of 54 NBL games including scoring 28 and 26 points against BK Decin. He also played his first Eurocup game scoring 22 points nailing 4 three’s giving a first impression for what would come the next years. Heading into his third professional season in 2012, he tried to reach the NBA one more time putting up solid numbers at the AirTran Orlando Summer League (Boston Celtics) averaging 9.7ppg, 1.3rpg, 1.7apg and at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas (Boston Celtics) averaging 9.2ppg, 1.8rpg, 1.2apg. He was invited by the Boston Celtics again to attend training camp, but was cut. That would be his last attempt for the NBA as his route then would be 100% Europe. Those NBA Summer League stats probably could have given him a better NBA shot today than 10 years ago. So many guys have stated that he could of played in the NBA, but he has had no regrets .’I don’t even think like that, because I’m happy with my story I’m blessed to have played as long as I have and still be playing professional’, stressed Jamar Smith. He made his real break through overseas in his third professional season playing in the respected Israeli Winner league with Altshuler Saham Galil Gilboa (Israel-Winner League) averaging 14.4ppg, 3.2rpg, 3.4apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 56.9%, 3PT: 41.3%, FT: 68.2%; and in the Balkan League averaged 16.5ppg, 3.1rpg, 3.7apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 60.0%, 3PT-2 (58.1%), FT: 86.7%. It is a season that he won’t forget as he won his first chip and built a mental foundation for more to come. ‘That’s where it all started winning a title and building a bond and having ties to a team forever is special and that’s the first place I was able to do it. I have a lot of fond memories of my teammates and people I met there’, remembered Jamar Smith. He played with so many talented guys and Brandon Bowman was another one of those special players that was close to the NBA. ‘He was tough and could really do a little of everything. He wasn’t with us that long though because he had a knee injury but he definitely got game’, said Jamar Smith. He had some massive games in the Winner League hitting Hapoel Tel Aviv for 27 points and Maccabi Haifa twice for 24 points and hit Teodo Tivat for 31 points.
The ex Boston Celtic who lists Erick McCollum, John Brown, Kyle Fogg, Steph Lasme, and Zack Wright as his best teammates of all-time came into the 2013-2014 season and played with Euroleague team Brose Bamberg. He surely went there with high expectations as the club had formed a dynasty, but that ended in the season he played there despite having great pros like Casey Jacobsen, Rakim Sanders, D or Fischer and Elias Harris. He averaged 12.5ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 40.8%, 3PT: 48.1%, FT: 83.3%;in the BBL and in the Euroleague averaged 10.5ppg, 1.9rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 55.0%, 3PT: 39.1%. ‘We had a lot of vets that year with some young talent as well. But all good things come to an end Casey John Goldsberry and Anton Gavel were the guys in that team. They brought them the success in the German league that they were known for and I believe that was Casey and John’s last year before they retired so I think their success just ran its course and me and Rakim were coming up and trying to establish ourselves’, remembered Jamar Smith. He scored 22 points against Tuebingen and had solid stints in the Euroleague scoring 19 points against Strasburg and 18 points a piece against Zalgiris and Efes. He also won’t forget Mr Bamberg at that time ex NBA player and Stanford (NCAA) great Casey Jacobsen. ‘He was a pro always on time and nice to people and a good example’, expressed Jamar Smith. In the 2014-2015 season he signed with Limoges ESP Elite in and would win his second pro title winning the Pro A. The club had celebrated much success in the 80’s and 90’s winning 10 league titles and hadn’t last won since 2000. It was a special season for the organization. ‘Limoges was making it to Euroleague because of winning the French League and like I said earlier in the interview budgets matter especially in Euroleague normally the teams that win are the teams with bigger budgets and no French team could compete with the budgets of other Euroleague teams. But a lot of guys in that team made great careers for themselves’, commented Jamar Smith. He put up super stats again averaging 12.7ppg, 1.8rpg, 2.9apg, FGP: 51.4%, 3PT: 46.0%, FT: 82.9 in the Pro A and in the Euroleague averaged 14.0ppg, 2.6rpg, 3.1apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 59.5%, 3PT: 45.8%, FT: 81.8%. He scored 29 points against Boulogne and in the Euroleague had good games against CSKA Moscow with 19 points and 18 points against his future team Unicaja.
The sniper who lists Shaq, MJ, Kobe, and Giannis on his personal NBA Mount Rushmore then reached the big time in 2015 playing 2 seasons for Unicaja Malaga playing in the ACB and Euroleague. He played 61 ACB games in his 2 year stint nd 15 Euroleague games and in his second season had a fantastic Eurocup season averaging 10.3ppg, 1.7rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 44.3%, 3PT: 43.0%, FT: 78.3% and helped the team to the Eurocup title. Despite reaching the 2 best leagues in 2015, he hadn’t reached the pinnacle of his career yet. ‘They were the best leagues for sure but I wasn’t the player that I became in Kazan with coach Priftis. The confidence and freedom he gave me as a player and always challenging me helped me get there’, remembered Jamar Smith. He had huge games in the Euroleague scoring 22 points against Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos and 20 points against Banco di Srd. In the ACB, he had some stellar games against Valencia with 24 points and had 23 points against Manresa. He came up big in a do or die game in the Eurocup final against Valencia posting 20 points. He also had the fortune of witnessing a young Luka ‘magic’ Doncic at age 16-17 and played 7 times against him and Real Madrid posting a 1-6 record and twice scored in double figures. It didn’t surprise him that he would soon be a great NBA player. ‘He played for arguably one of the best teams in Europe and started some games and was a major contributor and turned the team into his own. Not many people that played against him when he was with Madrid had a good experience especially the year he won MVP of Euroleague’, stated Jamar Smith. He was also lucky to play against some of the world’s best players and be pushed to the limit on a daily basis from teammates like Demarkus Nelson and Kyle Fogg. ‘Those were my bros just the comradery we had and I still talk to both of them. Great players who used to compete like crazy in practice. Practice was harder than some games with those guys’, remembered Jamar Smith. He then played 4 seasons with Russan team Unics Kazan where he played 104 VTB League games and 77 Eurocup games averaging 13/1/2 stats where he would forever be immortalized as one of the premier players. He averaged 13/2/2 stats in the VTB in his 4 seasons. He topped off his career at Unics winning the Eurocup MVP in 2021. He never won the VTB league title simply because CSKA Moscow had their own monopoly on the competition, but he became the Eurocup all-time leader in three pointers made. ‘VTB league is tough and the travel is difficult also but CSKA built a powerhouse and had some of the best players along with one of the biggest budgets so they reigned Supreme. The Eurocup title is cool but it’s a title that’s meant to be broken. It’s cool while you have it but there is so much young talent coming up I’m sure it will be broken and the torch will keep being passed like it has now’, added Jamar Smith. Some of his biggest games in the Eurocup happened against Gran Canaria as he had 32 points and 26 points against Cedevita and Asvel and in the VTB controlled Avtodor with 29 and 27 points and had 31 points against Parma. In his 4 years he had a who’s who of incredible teammates like Isaiah Canaan, Jordan Theodore, Okaro White, Nate Wolters, Raymar Morgan, Mauric Ndour, and Anton Ponkrashov. He was also teammates with Erik McCullum another one of many guys that he played with that could of played in the NBA. ‘ I think a lot of guys could have going into the right situation with the right opportunity there are a lot of great players over here. Especially in Euroleague but for some people playing and actually contributing means more than playing in the NBA and riding the bench’, warned Jamar Smith.
Last season the guard who never watched the sequel to the classic Coming To America with Eddie Murphy joined Bahcesehir Koleji Istanbul (Turkey-BSL) averaging 13.7ppg, 2.2rpg, 4.2apg, FGP: 51.2%, 3PT: 45.0%, FT: 76.9%; and in the FIBA Europe Cup averaged: 15.1ppg, 3.4rpg, 4.9apg, FGP: 42.2%, 3PT: 47.5%, FT: 85.7%. He won his fourth chip with the Fiba Europe Cup. He knows how tough it was winning a title in the VTB and it isn’t any different in the Turkish BSL. ‘It is super tough because Turkey has some of the best teams in Europe in my opinion they are at the top of euroleague and euro cup that’s not a coincidence’, stressed Jamar Smith. The club just advanced to the Basketball Champions League top 16 now and have done it with only 3 Americans, and a talented French and Czech player and fine Turkish role players. ‘Our Turkish players are good and have been playing great for us. We had early injuries and got off to a slow start but have won 6 out of our last 7. We have a lot of experienced guys who know how to play and we all trust each other I think that’s what makes us dangerous’, warned Jamar Smith. He has won titles in Israel, France, Spain and last season Turkey where the team was 17-1 in the Fiba Europe Cup. Was that the best team he ever played on? ‘ It’s hard to compare the cups because they are two different levels but the team we had last year was really good and I think it shows because it was the most success the club has had and all the players from that team are still playing some are on different teams and still playing well’, expressed Jamar Smith. He will be turning 36 in a little more than 2 months. The question is how much longer can he still be going. One guy who turned professional a year before he did and has been 14 years with the same club Fraport Skyliners is legend Quantez Robertson. Back in the 13-14 season, he played twice against him and despite winning the games by 30 and 10 points, he never forgot him. ‘I remember him being relentless. He’s a dog. I liked how competitive he was and he brought it every game’, commented Jamar Smith. The question is how much longer can he still play? He is still in top shape, has superb skills and isn’t slowing down and still has a massive hunger to win chips. ‘I think 40 is a goal that’s realistic. My body will give out before my love for the game for sure I still feel like a kid when I come to the gym’, warned Jamar Smith. It will be interesting if he can keep his promise, because witnessing his love for the game at that age is refreshing.