Jabari Smith admitted there is a chip on his shoulder after being overlooked by the Orlando Magic for the number one pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, but vowed to show the Houston Rockets that the Magic's loss is their gain.
Orlando instead picked Paolo Banchero, despite Smith being heavily tipped to have his name called.
Chet Holmgren was chosen second as expected by Oklahoma City Thunder, allowing the Rockets the chance to pick up Smith at three.
Speaking to reporters after Thursday's draft, the 19-year-old said: "[It] Definitely added a chip, but God makes no mistakes, so I'm happy to be here.
"I'm happy to be where I'm wanted. I'm happy to get to Houston and just show them. Give them what they picked. Just happy to be here."
Smith was a disruptive defender for Aubern, and averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 42.9 per cent from the floor and 42 per cent from the three-point line in 2021-22.
LETS GET IT pic.twitter.com/JaU79ignNa— Jabari Smith Jr (@jabarismithjr) June 24, 2022
The forward was named National Freshman of the Year by both the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
He will link up with other promising youngsters at Toyota Center, including Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun, both claimed in last year's draft.
"Most thing I'm looking forward to is just growing with them over these next few years," Smith added.
"We're all young, all new to the NBA lifestyle, so just learning from them. They're older than me, so just getting in there and ultimately building that relationship with them, so it can transfer to the court."
The Rockets had a league-worst record of 20-62 in the 2021-22 season, but Smith is aiming high, believing already that his new team can reach the postseason.
"I want to make the playoffs," Smith told ESPN. "I want to win games. That is how I was raised. That is just who I am. I want to come in and win games.
"I know if I come in every day trying to win, everything else will take care of itself. I am looking forward to a big year."