Malachi Smith announced his verbal commitment to the Dayton Flyers men’s basketball program on Saturday, becoming the first member of UD’s 2021 recruiting class.
Smith, a 6-foot combo guard, is a senior at the St. Raymond School for Boys in Bronx, N.Y. If that hometown and his last name sound familiar to Dayton fans, it’s because Malachi is the brother of Scoochie Smith, a Bronx native and former Dayton point guard who helped lead the Flyers to four straight NCAA tournament appearances (2014-17).
Despite that family history, Malachi said following in his brother’s footsteps had nothing to do with his decision.
“They’re a good fit,” Malachi said. “I had a good feeling. Everybody was telling me you’re going to have that one school to keep in the back of your head. For me, it was Dayton. I trust coach (Anthony) Grant, the national coach of the year.”
Malachi is a three-star recruit who ranks 197th in the 2021 class, according the 247Sports.com composite rankings.
“Mali has a high IQ and good feel for the game like me,” said Scoochie, who’s now playing in Serbia. “Whatever is going on in the game he will be able to control. Being able to attack and get others involved is his strong point.”
Dayton offered Malachi a scholarship in September 2019. Coach Anthony Grant visited St. Raymond to make the offer in person. Scoochie was also there in the gym. He said he drove to New York City from Atlanta just to be there for the visit.
“I wanted to be there when coach Grant blessed him with an amazing opportunity,” Scoochie said.
That wasn’t the first time Grant met Malachi. In the spring of 2017, not long after Archie Miller left for Indiana and Grant took the reins and when Malachi was in sixth grade, he visited Scoochie for a week on the UD campus. Malachi doesn’t remember much about the visit except that he was in the practice gym a lot.
Still, the experience helped when Malachi wasn’t able to take an official visit to Dayton this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Malachi also traveled with his dad, Elliot Rosado, to the Puerto Rico Tipoff tournament in 2014, at the start of Scoochie’s sophomore year. Malachi saw the passion of the Dayton fans that week.
“The only time those games were packed that week was when Dayton played,” Rosado said.
Georgetown, Rutgers and Oklahoma State were among the other schools that offered Malachi a scholarship. His decision came down to Dayton and Georgetown.
“We felt like Georgetown was pressing a little bit,” Rosado said. “At the start of this month, he called up coach Grant and said he wasn’t going to make a decision until Aug 29. He said, ’Will you hold my spot until then?’ Coach Grant said, ’Absolutely. I won’t do anything until Aug. 29.’ That kind of sealed the deal. It’s about who’s willing to wait for you.”
During the recruiting process this spring and summer, Grant, assistant coach Ricardo Greer and the rest of the staff communicated with Malachi via Zoom calls.
“He called us one day just to show on a Zoom call what they do and what they want,” Rosado said. “It felt like a film session. That for us was big.”
Grant also had to reassure Malachi he would be his own player at Dayton even if he was following in the footsteps of a brother who ranks 28th in school history in scoring (1,273 points) and played with the winningest class (102 victories in four years) in school history.
“I said to coach Grant, ’Fifty percent feels like you want Mali, but I feel the other 50 percent has to do with his brother,’” Rosado said. “He said to Mali, ’I’ve been fired before. That’s not a good feeling. I’m not risking my job for nobody. Scoochie was in the only class to go to the tournament four years in a row. Scoochie’s kind of a legend out there. You’re going to have to live with that. I can’t control the media. When you commit, the story’s probably going to be: Scoochie’s little brother commits. But my job is to coach you. I’m coaching Malachi Smith.’”
Rosado said Grant just did a great job recruiting Malachi, and it felt like it was meant to be.
Scoochie did offer advice to Malachi about UD.
“I let him know that they have a good staff there,” Smith said, “and the campus is very family oriented.”
Scoochie said it means a lot to know he has had a good influence on his brother’s life, “but for him to make his own decisions like I did means even more. He’s been working hard with and without me all his life, so this is no different.”
Malachi will join a 2021-22 roster that will have one other player from the Bronx: Koby Brea, a Monsignor Scanlan graduate who will be a freshman this season, though there’s a chance he could redshirt. At least one other player will debut next season with Malachi: University of Southern California transfer Elijah Weaver, a point guard who is sitting out this season.
Dayton has one scholarship open for the 2020-21 season and will have four opening with Jalen Crutcher, Rodney Chatman, Ibi Watson and Jordy Tshimanga exhausting their eligibility after the coming season. Malachi will fill one of those scholarships.
“Malachi Smith is a great all-around player,” St. Raymond coach Jorge Lopez told Adam Zagoria, of ZagsBlog.com. “He is one of the best at breaking down defenders and finishing at the basket through contact. The most impressive part of his game is his ability to pass in traffic. He is always one step ahead and is consistent at making the right plays for his teammates. During the off-season, Malachi has spent a tremendous amount of time improving on his 3-point shooting and mid-range game. He is the type of player who will have an immediate impact on a team, wherever he decides to go.”