Jamari “Chop” Smith, a football and basketball star athlete with Lee High School in Montgomery, Alabama, has died at 18. Smith was planning to pursue football at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Smith signed with the school in February 2020.
According to Smith’s football Hudl page, he was a 6-foot-4-inch, 205-pound wide receiver. Smith’s 40-yard dash time was clocked at 4.43 seconds.
Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed’s policy advisor, Phillip Ensler, wrote about Smith’s death in a Facebook post on the night of May 27:
Sending my prayers to my #FamiLEE tonight for the loss of Jamari “Chop” Smith. Tragedy seems to hit our #FamiLEE too often as we have lost too many of our children too soon. May this young man’s memory be for a blessing.
Smith drowned on May 27 while swimming at Lake Chewacla in Chewacla State Park in Auburn around 4:30 p.m. local time, reported The Montgomery Advertiser.
Smith Helped Lee High School Become 7A State Basketball Champion in February 2020
In February 2020, Lee High School was crowned the Class 7A state basketball champion. Following Lee High School’s victory over Oak Mountain in the semifinals of the tournament, in which Smith scored 12 points from the bench, he was quoted by The Montgomery Advertiser as saying, “We all just play our role, but when somebody needs to step out, we do. We all have the same mindset. Everybody can score.”
Following Smith’s death, Lee High School basketball coach Eric Hudson told The Montgomery Advertiser, “He was good kid, man. The kid always smiled. I never had any problems out of him, a very manner-able kid. It’s just hard right now.” Hudson said he had seen Smith earlier that day.
Smith Was Forced to Leave His First High School Due to an ‘Off-the-Court’ Issue
A Hoop Seen profile on Smith said he was “by far one of the most exciting players to watch at our events.” The profile also said Smith had interest from Tennessee State, Middle Tennessee and North Carolina A&T. The piece added that Smith had to decide between football and basketball. He eventually chose football.
Following Lee High School’s victory, River Region Sports reported in March 2020 that Smith was a student at Sidney Lanier as a sophomore and Success Unlimited Academy as a junior. Smith switched to Lee High School as a senior. According to the article, Smith left Sidney Lanier due to an “off-the-court incident.” His reason for leaving Success Unlimited Academy was due to a clash of basketball styles.
Smith’s Friend, Rod Scott, Was Killed in a Car Accident at 17 Before the Pair Could Play Together at Lee High School
On his Instagram page, Smith paid tribute to his late friend Rod Scott. Speaking to River Region Sports, Smith said that Scott and fellow dual-sports athlete at Lee High School, Henry Ruggs III, were huge influences on his life. Smith said:
Him and Rod raised me. They’ve always been here for me, they always told me, ‘One day you’ve got to be better than us.’ So I always kept that in my mind. Growing up around these guys, I always wanted to go to Lee.
Always. I wanted to play with (Ruggs), I wanted to play with Rod. It didn’t happen, but I ended up transferring here my senior year and making sure it did happen.
Scott was killed in a car crash in March 2016, reported Albama.com. He was 17 years old.