One name that SMU has always been in the mix for is Texas Titans 2015 3-star center D-Jery Baptiste, who has continued to improve this summer during the AAU and camp circuit.
“He had a great LeBron James camp. One scout there ranked him as the sixth best player at the LeBron James camp, which is pretty remarkable. He got a chance to go play free and see what he could do,” Derrick Shelby, Baptiste’s guardian, said. “He did a good job of doing that, which segwayed well into the Las Vegas camp, where he got a chance to go out and play and do what he does best.”
Shelby sees Baptiste settling down into his natural position with each passing game and camp, which for some players takes more time than others.
“Some players think that they’re something that they’re not. D’Jery has realized who he is and what his basketball identity is,” Shelby said. “What he is, is a rebounding, blocks everybody’s shot, runs the floor hard kind of guy. He’s the best rim-runner in the country and he just goes all out.”
For a 7-foot, 250-pound center that has only been playing basketball for a few years after coming to the United States from Haiti, it’d be easy to try and be just a scorer, but Baptiste is embracing the role that colleges want to see.
“A lot of kids come in and just want to score, but there’s a lot colleges out there that want him to play defense, protect the rim and get everything close to the basket and be a leader,” Shelby said. “He had a lot of coaches take notice of that.”
“Coming from Haiti where trying to get through pre-school is really hard. Getting to college would make their families really proud and I’m happy to be a part of that,” Shelby said.
Shelby’s next step for Baptiste is to organize official visits, unofficial visits and home visits. Baptiste is still, “a little ways away,” from deciding on a school, but once Baptiste knows what he wants, it won’t take long for Baptiste to commit, whether it’s in the fall or spring.
Shelby talked about SMU, who was at most of Baptiste’s games in Las Vegas to watch him.
“From a SMU standpoint, he’s still all about SMU,” Shelby said. “SMU being close to home so he noticed that coach Brown and his staff were at multiple games, he takes notice of that and people who’ve taken notice of him.”
Vanderbilt was mentioned as one of the schools that has been on Baptiste the most and most likely will get a visit. Shelby said it’s tough to decide what schools to take officials to because of the chance to drive to some of them or use the official to get Baptiste there. Baptiste would like to knock a few visits out before his high school season starts.
One of those may be SMU, but if it’s an official, that’s another thing.
“There’s so many great schools that are really close driving distance away so we may or may not do an official at SMU, but we’re definitely going to visit there,” Shelby said. “SMU is only 20 minutes away so I don’t know about doing an official there.”
Baptiste wants to be an ambassador for Haiti once in school, something SMU can help with. Baptiste recognizes that “world changers shaped here,” could apply to him.
“ One of his top goals is to become a diplomat for his country,” Shelby said. “SMU as a community, all those things academically, SMU has the resources to help with that. It’s a great academic school, it’s very well respected.”
SMU is looking at possibly losing its entire front court and some key backups after this season, so Baptiste looks at SMU as an opportunity to definitely play right away.
“I feel like they feel he can come in right away and play. He’s 7-foot tall and 7’ 4” wingspan as an athlete, I believe he’s going to come in and get some minutes,” Shelby said. “I know you’re not going to find a kid that can out work him so his decision is all work ethic and he’s going to get minutes. He’s the hardest working kid I’ve ever seen.”
SMU is also recruiting other top centers in the country including Titans teammate Tyler Davis, who could take minutes from Baptiste if they were both on the same team, which is why Shelby doesn’t see them playing together.
“They have not talked about playing together,” Shelby said. “They’re such good friends. When they get together, they’ll talk about anything, movies they’ve seen, they’re not talking about basketball.”
Even one division one coach asked Shelby, “how do we recruit both of them?”
Shelby doesn’t see that being able to happen because everyone wants to go where they have a chance to play.
Ultimately, Baptiste wants to play right away, but it could be a while before SMU knows whether or not that will be for the Mustangs or one of the top programs that is recruiting him.
“I know what he wants. He’s looking for a chance to play, a chance to play immediately and a chance to make an impact immediately.”
Baptiste averaged 2.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game averaging 11.5 minutes per game for the Titans this EYBL circuit.
D-Jery Baptiste's Mixtape