JR Smith is looking forward to becoming a student-athlete at North Carolina A&T after 16 years in the NBA.
While earning a liberal studies degree, the two-time NBA champion will play golf for the Greensboro HBCU.
Earl “JR” Smith III achieved numerous achievements throughout his 16-year NBA career, but the two-time NBA champion has now returned to school to pursue a new sport at the age of 35.
The 6-foot-6-inch former shooting guard will be the most renowned member of the North Carolina A&T men’s golf team after appealing the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for eligibility.
J.R.Smith entered as a freshman and plans to major in liberal studies.
Smith stated in an online news conference on Monday that he wants to “change the narrative as far as athletes in general and Black guys in particular” by returning to school.
“This was the greatest liberal studies program and environment for me,” he added, adding that it also turned out to be the best golf program.
NCAA regulations indicate that athletes who have participated professionally are ineligible to play collegiate sports, however those restrictions don’t apply when a former pro wishes to compete in a new sport. Smith has five years of collegiate eligibility remaining since he went straight to the NBA after high school.
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Smith committed to play basketball at UNC Chapel Hill while still at Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, New Jersey. Instead, he signed an agency and entered the 2004 NBA draft, where he was chosen 18th overall by the New Orleans Hornets.
Smith won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year title in 2012 after scoring 12,148 points in five seasons with five different clubs. With the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020, he won NBA championships.
Smith said he’s excited to start college and experience life as a student.
“I certainly thought about it a lot in my early years,” he added, “but then school simply vanished in my thoughts after a while.” “As I’ve gotten older and matured, I’ve realized how important education is, and I’ve tried to accomplish something with my life outside of basketball.”
Smith admitted that college may be difficult. On Sunday night, he completed his first academic project just before the deadline.
He said, “I’ve never done a PowerPoint presentation in my life.” “I’m clearly not your typical freshman, so I’m not sure how I’ll fare.”
J.R .Smith has been playing golf for 12 years, according to him. After seeing the late NBA Hall of Famer Moses Malone urge him to try a swing at a charity golf tournament, he became interested in the sport.
“I hooked after that,” he said. “I was very, really terrible for five or six years after that, and then I began taking it seriously, going to the range and trying to figure out my swing.”
He has a handicap of 5, claims to be able to smash the ball more than 300 yards off the tee.
J.R.Smith will be a “helpful hand” for the school’s fledgling golf program, according to golf coach Richard Watkins.
“Since the beginning of this program, we’ve focused on being able to compete at a higher level,” he added. “The inclusion of JR merely accelerates the transition to a much, much better program in the not-too-distant future.”
The Aggies will play their first match of the season on September 24-25 in Newnan, Georgia, at the Black College Golf Coaches Association Invitational.
Smith said he’ll keep balancing his virtual courses and working on his game until then.
Smith stated he was open to returning to the NBA when asked by QCity Metro whether he would ever consider it.
“Obviously, if the chance is there, I’m not going to pass it up,” he added.
After 16 years in the NBA, JR Smith looks forward to being a student-athlete at NC A&T