Mocs Backcourt of Malachi Smith and David Jean Baptiste Returning Next Season

( CHATTANOOGA—The Chattanooga Mocs boasted the best backcourt in the Southern Conference in 2020-21. After putting their names into the NBA Draft process, the duo of David Jean-Baptiste and Malachi Smith are back and looking forward to 2021-22.

The two have taken very different paths to get to this point in their careers. It’s DJB’s sixth year in Chattanooga seeing his redshirt senior opportunity extended by the NCAA”s decision to grant a pandemic year of eligibility. Smith starts year three here, and fourth overall, as a redshirt sophomore.

Jean-Baptiste signed with former head coach Matt McCall and redshirted the year prior to Lamont Paris’ arrival in the Scenic City. He played four years for Paris growing each step of the way developing into an All-Southern Conference performer. In his own words, he’s right where he needs to be.

“The last couple of months went great,” Jean-Baptiste shared. “You gotta trust in your gut, trust in your heart. Everything feels right with offseason workouts with coaches and meeting the new players. Everything feels like where I’m supposed to be.

“Which is right here.”

Smith began at Wright State earning Horizon League All-Freshman honors. Despite that solid start, he knew there was something missing. The St. Louis area native came to Chattanooga in 2019 sitting out per NCAA transfer rules and working on his own development. Those efforts paid off in a big way earning first team All-SoCon status.

“With me having years left, this is the smartest move for me now,” Smith noted. “There’s more to prove building off the year I had. It’s taking the opportunity to grow, learn and be better for my teammates next year.”

Obviously returning two guards with the experience and accolades of these two is easy for any coach to appreciate. Paris gets to welcome two high-level people back to a roster that is coming off 38 wins over the last two seasons.

“We have continued to both recruit and develop individual guys,” he explained. Their individual games giving them the opportunity to showcase that in front of NBA decision makers and have their game evaluated by those people. Obviously, they’re in a certain place at a level of play to do that.

“It speaks a lot not only about the guys we’re recruiting, but also in the development piece we have here. We’ve been committed to development since I got here; it’s how I cut my teeth as a coach.”

Jean-Baptiste was succinct when asked why six years in the same place?

“It’s the fans…it’s the city of Chattanooga,” he added. “The people I’ve met over the years on and off the court. They gravitated toward me, gave me that love. It’s something I’ve learned not to take for granted. I want to show them that love back.”

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