INDIANAPOLIS (USBWA) – Auburn forward Jabari Smith, a dynamic big man who turned the Tigers into one of the nation’s toughest matchups and helped lead the Tigers to the Southeastern Conference regular-season title, is the winner of this season’s Wayman Tisdale Award honoring the National Freshman Player of the Year based on voting by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Smith is Auburn’s first Tisdale Award winner and its first USBWA All-American since 1998-99.
One of three freshman on the 2021-22 USBWA All-America team and one of two second-teamers, the 6-10, 220-pounder from Fayetteville, Ga., was the SEC’s Freshman of the Year averaging a team-leading 16.9 points per game and was on the All-SEC First Team. Smith was a six-time SEC Freshman of the Week honoree.
Smith will formally receive the award at the upcoming USBWA College Basketball Awards Banquet in St. Louis on April 11, hosted by the Missouri Athletic Club.
Smith lead Auburn (28-6) to the its first outright regular-season conference title since 1999 and its 11th NCAA Tournament appearance and third of the last five seasons, earning a No. 2 seed, the second-highest in program history. The Tigers captured a school-record 15 SEC wins this season and had their first undefeated season (16-0) at home in Neville Arena.
Smith is the first Auburn player to win a USBWA postseason award in program history. Aside from Smith and teammate Walker Kessler, a USBWA third-team All-American at center, only Chris Porter has been named a USBWA All-American from Auburn, during the 1998-99 season. Smith and Kessler also made the USBWA’s All-District IV team.
With 28 games in double figures and at least one three-pointer in 28 consecutive games, Smith is fourth nationally in scoring among freshmen at 576 total points. As Auburn surged into the NCAA Tournament over the final eight regular-season games, he averaged 22.6 points per game, shot 51.8 percent on three-pointers (28-of-54) and 82.8 percent from the foul line (48-of-58).
Against Jacksonville State in Auburn's NCAA first-round game, Smith scored the most points ever by an Auburn freshman in an NCAA Tournament game with a game-high 20 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. Smith added four assists and capped his day with a thunderous highlight-reel dunk. His 14 rebounds were also the most by an Auburn freshman in NCAA Tournament history. Auburn was eliminated by Miami (Fla.) in the second round.
The last SEC player to earn the Wayman Tisdale Award was Ben Simmons from LSU in 2015-16. Anthony Davis (Kentucky, 2012), John Wall (Kentucky, 2010) and Chris Jackson (LSU, 1989 and the initial winner) are other previous SEC winners.
The Wayman Tisdale Award is voted on by the entire membership of the association. The USBWA has chosen a national freshman of the year award since the 1988-89 season. It was named the Wayman Tisdale Award in the 2010-11 season in honor of the late three-time USBWA All-American at Oklahoma and the first freshman to receive first-team All-America honors from the USBWA.
The U.S. Basketball Writers Association was formed in 1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers. With some 900 members worldwide, it is one of the most influential organizations in college basketball. It has selected an All-America team since the 1956-57 season. For more information on the USBWA and its award programs, contact executive director Malcolm Moran at 814-574-1485. For additional info about covering the awards banquet, contact Jim Wilson with the MAC (314-539-4488).