Smith has not officially called it quits in basketball, but the free-agent swingman is unlikely to make his way back into the NBA again as a player. And it’s not just because of Smith’s minimal value and that he’s someone who can be easily replaceable by a younger asset with a much higher ceiling, but also because he appears to have found his calling in a different sport.
After 16 years in the NBA, Smith is going to college. He has enrolled at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, North Carolina. However, getting tertiary education isn’t the only reason why Smith is attending college. He is also planning to become part of the university’s golf team, pending clearance from the NCAA.
Smith is participating in the pro-am tournament of the Wyndham Championship (the last event of the 2021 PGA TOUR before the playoffs) this week where he recently revealed the significant role of Basketball Hall of Famer Ray Allen in his decision to go to college.
“Ray Allen kind of convinced me,” Smith said Wednesday at the golf event. “We had a little golf trip in [the Dominican Republic] and he was talking about some of the things he was doing, about going back to school and challenging yourself for us athletes. I really took heed to it and decided to go back — and one of the best liberal studies programs is at A&T.”
Right now, the primary goal for Smith is to have the NCAA declare him as an eligible athlete. Even if he wanted to join the Aggies’ basketball team, he can’t compete under the rules of the NCAA because, for one, he had already competed professionally in that sport. It’s a different story with golf, but it remains to be seen whether Smith will eventually be granted eligibility.
Per NCAA rules, “an individual shall not be eligible for intercollegiate athletics in a sport if the individual ever competed on a professional team in that sport.” But the laws do not ban a former pro athlete from competing in a different sport. Multiple collegiate athletes have played professional sports before returning to school to compete in Division I athletics.
In any case, JR Smith attending college classes and playing golf at the same time?
It can’t get any more JR Smith-esque than that.