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5-star center Semaj Smith commits to Arizona

The Wildcats’ 2018 class just got even better

Photo courtesy Stan Liu/Arizona Athletics

Already armed with a top-five recruiting class, the Arizona Wildcats added yet even more future firepower Saturday, picking up a commitment from five-star post player Semaj Smith.

The 6-foot-5 Smith is the No. 52 player in the 2018 class and the No. 9 post player.*

“Athletic front-court prospect patrols the key, alters shots, initiates fast break; mobile in transition game; emerging offensive arsenal; consistent at the free throw line; a stock-riser in the class of 2018 that "oozes" next level possibilities,” it says of Smith on ESPN.

Smith averaged 15.9 points, 15.2 rebounds and 5.7 blocks per game as junior at St. Anthony’s High School in Long Beach, Calif.

Smith is the daughter of Rhonda Smith, who holds Long Beach State’s single-season block record (118).

Semaj’s style of play isn’t all that different, according to ESPNW:

Smith, who can hang on the rim but doesn't yet dunk, has her mom's mindset: She'd rather block a shot than score a bucket.

Her shooting range is from the free-throw line and in, but (her high school coach) said she's a "very good passer" and is the best he's seen defending the pick and roll. Smith loves working on the low block with a jump hook, showing a soft touch off the glass.

But last season in practice, a teammate consistently fooled her with a drop step.

Smith becomes Arizona’s fifth 2018 commit.

Adia Barnes and company already landed forwards Cate Reese, the No. 13 player in the 2018 class, and Valeria Trucco, the top post player in Europe, along with three-star prospects Bryce Nixon, the No. 28 point guard, and Shalyse Smith, the No. 35 wing.

The Wildcats had the No. 4 recruiting class in the country before adding Semaj Smith, according to


Picked to finish 11th in the Pac-12, Arizona is expected to struggle in 2017-18 due to its youth and lack of depth, but major improvement should take place in 2018-19.

Not only will the Wildcats be adding one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, they will be adding three high-level transfers to the mix as well.

Those transfers, who are required to sit out this season, are:

  • Former Washington point guard Aarion McDonald, who was a member of the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team last season. (to read more about McDonald, click here.)
  • Former Purdue forward Dominique McBryde, a former five-star recruit who was a Big Ten Honorable Mention as a sophomore last season. (to read more about McBryde, click here.)
  • Former Iowa State guard Tee Tee Starks, who averaged 3 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists per game in 18.6 minutes as a sophomore last season.

Barnes admitted last month that she didn’t think Arizona would recruit this well this quickly, but her expectations for the program have always been high.

“We’re the type of program and brand — and it’s evident with men’s basketball — that you can go anywhere and get anybody,” said the UA alumna.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire

*All rankings via ESPN unless specified otherwise