When Jabri Abdur-Rahim stepped on campus in Charlottesville, V.A., a lot was expected of the South Orange, N.J. native. Sure, the former 4-star recruit was set to be an immediate contributor for the defending national champion Cavaliers, but being the son of a basketball great carried its own handful of expectations.
If the surname sounds familiar, that's because it should. Jabri's father, Shareef, was a star in his own right. During his impressive high school career at Wheeler (Marietta), Shareef was named Mr. Georgia Basketball back-to-back years. After playing collegiately at Cal, he was selected third overall in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies - behind only Allen Iverson and Marcus Camby. Shareef would go on to play 13 seasons in the League, boasting All-Rookie and All-Star selections.
Outside of his dad, Jabri had a whopping five uncles play ball at the college level. His uncle, Amir Abdur-Rahim, would go on to coach at Kennesaw State University, where he led the Owls to the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Prior to KSU, Amir was on Coach Tom Crean's staff at Georgia. That connection would wind up benefiting Jabri a few years later.
Lingering injuries marred Jabri's freshman season at Virginia. The 6'8", 215 guard never quite found a place within Coach Tony Bennett's system. Therefore following that season, it came as no surprise when Abdur-Rahim hit the portal seeking a new home and a clean slate.
Through his connection to Crean's staff at UGA, Jabri landed in Athens, where he was immediately called upon as a contributor. Abdur-Rahim averaged over 18 minutes a game while appearing in all 32 tilts during the 2021-22 campaign. That season was abysmal for the Bulldogs, however. After finishing 6-26, Georgia parted ways with Crean. That meant Abdur-Rahim would have to undergo substanial change yet again. Then came the mass exodus of players - 10 to be exact. When the dust settled and new Georgia coach Mike White had implemented his staff, Abdur-Rahim was one of five holdovers from the Crean regime.
Last season, Jabri appeared in all 32 games again. He didn't make any starts, but emerged as a reliable bucket and a plug-in spark when the Dawgs needed it. It was also apparent that he was becoming a better and better shooter. While his on-paper contributions were similar to the year prior, Abdur-Rahim improved his field goal, three point and free throw percentages - all by substantial margins.
There was something about the new and improved Georgia Basketball system that made Jabri stick around for his senior season. For one, he truly feels as if the Bulldogs are finally onto something.
"I feel like this team is more connected. We have a lot of older guys, a lot of mature guys and guys who have won at different places, so I think everyone fits in well with one another," said Abdur-Rahim heading into the season. "I feel like everybody's game really compliments each other. "It's a really close team, I think it's going to show on the court."
It certainly has shown.
Georgia (10-3) just capped off an undefeated month of December. The Bulldogs carry an eight game win streak into the start of SEC play. Meanwhile, Jabri is coming into his own. He's started all 13 of Georgia's games so far this season and is averaging over 13 points per contest. His shooting has improved even more - particularly from behind the arc, where Jabri is shooting an impressive 42.6%.
Abdur-Rahim knows his increasing success is no coincidence, but rather a product of the work he put in over the offseason.
"I shot a lot. I would say anywhere from 100 to 400 shots a day," he said. "I feel like that's the best thing I do, but you can always get better."
The road ahead is not an easy one for the Dawgs. With conference play opening this week, new challenges and stiffer competition await. Yet Abdur-Rahim believes his squad is ready. And though there's more riding on his shoulders than ever before, he thinks he's ready, too.
"I think I'm just a lot more confident, and I know I've worked really hard. I'm getting a little more opportunity to play, and I feel like I'm just prepared for it," he said.
Georgia opens its SEC slate at Missouri (8-5) on Saturday at 1p.m. ET.