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Maryland’s Jalen Smith says Nets were aggressive in pursuing Draft interview

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Maryland v LSU Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The first media interviews with Draft prospects took place Monday. Prospects spoke to NBA media via Zoom about who they’ve talked with, who they’d like to join, etc.

Among the first interviews were LaMelo Ball, slated as the overall No. 1 in many mock drafts, and 6’10” Maryland power forward Jalen Smith who’s been tagged as a late lottery/top 20 pick. He’s been linked to the Nets, who pick at No. 19, on more than one draft and he said the Nets were aggressive in getting in touch and interviewing him.

Brian Lewis tweeted out Smith’s comments regarding the Nets...

Smith said he’s also spoken with the Wizards, Spurs, Raptors, Bulls and Suns.

Like Durant, Smith is a product of Maryland basketball, having won the Maryland Boys Basketball Player of the Year twice, staying home to play with the Terrapins. Last year, Smith averaged a double-double at 15.5 and 10.5 while shooting 53.8 percent overall and 36.8 percent from a three, a skill he developed in his two years at Maryland. He earned a place on the 2019-2020 All-Big Ten team and was a Big Ten All-Defense selection as well.

The Nets already have a few bigs capable of stretching the floor. The 20-year-old Smith could join KD, Taurean Prince, Rodions Kurucs and Nicolas Claxton. He also played some 5 at Maryland, but sees himself as a natural 4.

“I was pretty much playing out of position most of the year because [coach Mark] Turgeon wanted me to play the 4, but most of the year I played at the 5 due to issues we had behind the scenes with the team,” Smith told NBC Sports recently, a reference to friction between Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and one of his prized recruits.

Beyond Smith, the news of the Nets aggressiveness may very well indicate something else noteworthy: the Nets plan on keeping the 19th pick.

The Draft Combine will be different this year because of the pandemic. In effect, the combine will be virtual and take place in phases starting September 28 and run through mid-November, culminating in the Draft, now scheduled for November 18. It too will be virutal. League and team interviews started the process Monday.

Players will also create “Pro Day” videos in October at the nearest NBA team facility where there will also be on-court strength and agility testing, measurements and medical exams. The league will use HomeCourt, a mobile training application (whose biggest investments include the NBA and Joe Tsai) to record the shooting portion of the combine and provide analytics.

On Tuesday, two other prospects pegged for the middle of first round, Stanford’s 6’2” point guard Tyrell Terry and Memphis 6’9” forward Precious Achiuwa, said the Nets were among the teams that have interviewed them.