STEPHENVILLE – Tarleton men’s basketball head coach Billy Gillispie announced the addition of highly-touted forward Jakorie Smith out of East Mississippi CC to the Texan roster for the 2022-23 season.
Smith, 6-6, received NJCAA Division I All-American honorable mention recognition in March after leading the Lions to the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference (MACCC) tournament championship and a 21-7 overall record. He averaged a team-leading and career-high 17.7 points per game and led the Lions on the glass (7.9 rpg) and also rank among the leaders in the MACCC.
Originally from Utica, Mississippi, Smith was eager to put the pen to paper with Tarleton.
“I will be playing for a well-known and well-respected coach who knows how to win and a school with a great fan base that wants to win,” he said.
Smith will have two years to play two seasons for Tarleton.
“In recruiting, your goals are always to recruit the best players, students, and people,” Gillispie said. “In signing Jakorie, we have achieved all three goals. He is a proven player who is an ultimate winner. There isn’t anything he can’t do on the basketball court. He can really play and he affects winning in so many ways.
“Jakorie is as competitive in the classroom as he is on the court and will be a great Tarleton State graduate. As good as he is on the court and in the classroom, he is even better as a person. He comes from a tremendous family who taught him right. We are very lucky and pleased to have Jakorie as a part of the Tarleton State basketball family.”
Smith arrives in Stephenville following a decorated three-year run at EMCC from 2019-2022.
He was a three-time recipient of All-MACCC first team and NJCAA All-Region 23 honors.
Smith averaged 15.8 points and 8.1 points per game over the course of his tenure in Scooba while totaling 97 career assists, 96 steals and 39 blocked shots. He recorded 21 career double-doubles in 68 games played. Smith filled up the offensive stat sheet from all areas, as he shot a combined 47.4 percent from the field, 34.8 percent behind the arc and 79.7 percent at the foul line.
With Smith anchoring the Lions’ frontcourt, EMCC went on to post a 48-22 overall record and 28-11 mark in conference play under head coach Billy Begley. Smith was named MACCC Player of the Week on four occasions.
“In terms of legacy, at least in my time, he will go down as one of the best I’ve ever been around,” Begley said. “We’ve had some really, really talented kids. I think if you were doing a first team All-East Mississippi CC team, he’d have to be right there on it. Obviously, the numbers on the court, that speaks for itself. Just came in from day one and you just kind of knew he had the ‘it’ factor, and it just drew you to him. You knew that if we had him, we were going to have a chance to win every game.
“Off the court, he never missed a class,” Begley continued. “He was as good off the court as he was on the court. The way he treated people and the way he treated people on campus, he’ll definitely be someone, 10-15 years from now, if we were to put together an All-East Mississippi CC team, he’s going to be one of the first names that comes to mind.”
Smith arrived in Scooba after guiding Raymond High School to three straight 4A MHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships.
As a freshman in 2019-20, Smith averaged 15.2 points and a career-best 8.4 rebounds en route to his first set of All-Region and All-Conference accolades.
The strong freshman showing gives grist to Begley’s sentiment that Tarleton landed a “big-time steal” in the addition of Smith.
Smith maintained a 3.7 grade point average throughout his junior college tenure and was an academic qualifier following his first year at EMCC. He received recruiting interest from a collection of SEC and D1 programs.
He then elected to return to EMCC for his sophomore campaign, where he posted a stat line of 13.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per outing during the COVID-19-condensed 2020-21 season.
Smith utilized the NJCAA’s COVID-19 ruling that granted athletes an additional year of eligibility to return to Scooba for a third-and-final tour of duty. His swan song proved to be his most memorable at EMCC. Nine of Smith’s career double-doubles came during the 2021-22 campaign. He scored in double figures on 24 occasions and closed the show on his junior college career by pouring in a career-high 36 points in the quarterfinals of the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament.
Smith’s winning pedigree and character lead Begley to believe he will fit in seamlessly at Tarleton and under Gillispie.
“There’s a few ingredients that are constant in winning: discipline, hard work, and high character,” Begley said. “Jakorie, he’s going to work his tail off, he’s going to be where he’s supposed to be, he’s going to do more than what’s expected. If he’s not performing well, he’s going to get extra work, whether it’s on the court or in the classroom. He’s going to compete every single day, and he wants to win in everything. I think those ingredients that go into winning are constant no matter where you are.
“And he wants to be told the truth. He doesn’t want you to sugarcoat anything. His mom is the same way. There were games I felt like I was too tough on Jakorie, and I’d come out of the locker room, and she’d tell me, ‘you weren’t tough enough.’ You don’t get that from many parents. I don’t hold back on kids, but I don’t have to do that a lot with Jakorie because he’s consistent every single day.”
His successes as a prep player were unprecedented at Raymond HS.
Smith was the first male athlete in school history to be named to The Clarion-Ledger newspaper’s Dandy Dozen his senior year in 2019. He also became the school’s first boys basketball player to suit up in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star game that same year. Prior to Smith ascending to the varsity ranks as a sophomore in 2016, Raymond had never produced a state championship three-peat in any sport.
“The biggest thing about Jakorie, in everything he does, he wants to win,” said Raymond HS head coach Tom Tadlock. “Hes’s extremely coachable. He’s a great student athlete. He was just a great ambassador for Raymond Sigh School as well. Everything he did, he did it the right way. There were times I had to ask him to coach other players hard, and he would do it. And again, he did it because he’s a winner.
“I remember his junior season,” Tadlock continued, “I think he may have scored five or six points in the state championship, and he was the most excited player on the floor. Then as a senior, he scored 23 points when we won our third straight state championship. And his face was the same in both games.”
He was named the 4A MHSAA Boys Basketball MVP following the Rangers’ third consecutive state title. Following his junior year in 2018, Smith was selected to compete in the Mississippi Association of Coaches North/South All-Star Basketball Game for juniors. Smith concluded his high school career with two sets of All-State and All-District honors.
Smith was also a standout in the classroom at EMCC and Raymond. He was named to the President’s List and Dean’s List at EMCC and was an A/B honor roll student throughout high school.
Smith intends to major in sport management at Tarleton.
“He was raised by a great set of parents and a great family, and you can tell they instilled that in him from an early age,” Tadlock said. “The one thing I always appreciated about him – he never forgot where he came from. In the two years I coached him, I knew he was destined for greatness. He was as good of a person off the court as he was on the court.”