A jungle gym as a hoop? That was childhood for Mavs 1st Round pick Dennis Smith, Jr.

DALLAS — “The Dallas Mavericks select Dennis Smith, Jr. from North Carolina State University.”

The announcement from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was met with a rupture of applause at this year’s NBA Draft. The struggling Mavs continued a long tradition of star point guards with what might go down as one of the steals of the Draft.

We know him as a 19-year-old with big hops and bigger potential.

Dennis Smith, Jr. knows the hype about him is real.

“I believe I could be the best point guard ever,” he told NewsFix.

But what we wanted to know is, who is Dennis Smith, Jr.?

“229 G,” he said, pointing up to an apartment in Fayetteville, North Carolina, as part of an NBA ‘Day in the Life’ piece. “It looks a little better now. This is my whole childhood right here.”

“It was a lot of fun, a lot of interaction,” he says now about his childhood. “It’s a real family. Everybody’s close knit.”

Junior’s big family came up in Fayetteville, and believe it or not, hoop dreams weren’t always on his mind.

“It was football because I could just go outside,” he said. “We had a field outside. We could go out there to play football all the time. We didn’t have a goal in our neighborhood.”

“We all played on this goal,” he said in the NBA piece, pointing at a rounded piece of a jungle gym. “The ball barely would fit through here. You can’t really dribble on the bark. We made do with what we had.”

He made do and then some, first catching the attention of another Fayetteville star, J.Cole.

“I’m proud of you, dog. For real,” the rapper is caught saying to Smith in a 2014 video at a Fayetteville bowling alley.

This spring, the Mavs took notice.

“Coach Carlisle went and bought an iPhone so he could call me on FaceTime,” Smith said with a laugh.

Now the rest of the NBA and its followers are starting to see the light. He’s the second betting favorite for NBA Rookie of the Year, and an NBA.com poll put him first.

“I got picked at No. 9. I ain’t supposed to be right there,” he said. “It’s just a blessing.”

Will he join Jason Kidd as the only Mavs to win Rookie of the Year?

He says there are just two pieces to this puzzle.

“The work and my family,” he said. “My family believes in me a lot.”

And soon enough, Dallas will, too.