Basketball team

Former Chattanooga guard Malachi Smith commits to Gonzaga Bulldogs men’s basketball team

Former Chattanooga guard Malachi Smith, the top men’s basketball transfer available on the portal, has committed to Gonzaga, he announced on social media Thursday.

“I wanted a chance to play for a Hall of Fame coach in Mark Few, to be part of a winning culture, for a team that has a family atmosphere,” Smith told ESPN.

Smith chose the Zags over a group that included Louisville, Texas Tech, DePaul and Stanford, but he had interest from nearly every school in need of a guard since entering the transfer portal in late April.

Smith, the Southern Conference Player of the Year, was one of the top mid-major players in the nation last season, averaging 19.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists. per game while shooting 40.7% from 3 points. He was also testing the waters of the NBA draft before retiring at the NCAA deadline and says he’s garnered valuable feedback from teams on what they want him to work on to improve his professional status.

“They want me to demonstrate that I can be a versatile defender against NBA-caliber talent while still showing my offensive game as a point guard,” he said. “They want to see that I can compete at this level.”

Smith joins a Gonzaga team that will be considered the No. 1 preseason team in the nation with North Carolina after the return of several key players. That includes preseason National Player of the Year nominee Drew Timme and two other No. 1 seeded starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament in fifth-year senior Rasir Bolton and junior Julian Strawther — both double-digit scorers.

Two key reserves from last season in main forward Anton Watson and second-year point guard Nolan Hickman are also back, joining LSU transfer center Efton Reid.

Smith says being part of a team with national championship aspirations was appealing, although there’s no guarantee he’ll be the focal point of the attack with so many talented players returning.

“A lot of the winning teams that fight for titles have big chunks,” he said. “Kansas has four or five guys who could have been man for different teams. Gonzaga’s Final Four team had four or five players who can play in the NBA. I know being on a great team, everything will be fine. it’s supposed to be, as long as we win games.”

Perhaps most important to Gonzaga, Smith brings an experienced, battle-tested guard known for his vocal leadership – something the roster is currently missing.

“I bring talent, but I’ve also been in March Madness,” he said. “I’ve led a team in a tournament. I have experience leading, using my voice and knowing where the guys need to be to make it all go well. My goal is to be part of something special and elevate my game.”