The NCAA had to determine Smith’s eligibility to be a student-athlete, and the decision was confirmed.
Former NBA star J.R. Smith has been declared eligible to play golf for his new school, North Carolina A&T.
Smith played in the NBA for 16 years after going pro immediately after high school and never attended college. The NCAA had to determine Smith’s eligibility to be a student-athlete, and the decision was confirmed this week.
He told The Undefeated the decision was exciting, saying, “It was probably one of the most exciting feelings I’ve had in a while. I really didn’t know how it was going to go. … but to be able to actually call myself a student-athlete is a great feeling.”
This photo from July 2020 shows then-Los Angeles Laker J.R. Smith warming up prior to a game against the L.A. Clippers in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
As previously reported, Smith said that it was Hall of Famer Ray Allen who inspired him to enroll in college.
“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,” he explained. “I really took heed to it and decided to go back — and one of the best liberal studies programs is at A&T.”
Smith added that his friendships with Chris Paul and Paul’s brother, C.J., helped him decide on A&T. “That North Carolina connection with Chris and C.J. was there, and then I just had to figure out if I still have eligibility.”
Smith started classes last week. He told The Winston-Salem Journal “It’s been a journey.”
“It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been in school,” added the new liberal studies major. “I’m excited about these new challenges, and I’ll have to really buckle down. I’ve got no free time now with raising kids and going to school, so I’ll be busy.”
In an online news conference, Smith said, according to Sports Illustrated, “It’s going to be fun. Obviously different environments from playing in front of 20,000 people to playing in a college golf gallery. But it’s still as nerve-racking as shooting a free throw in front of 5,000 instead of making a 5-foot putt in front of three. So it all correlates the same for me.”
The freshman has been tweeting about his new experience, including receiving an English assignment in which a professor asked where he saw himself in the next five to 10 years.
“It’s not even a week yet, but as I get into it, I keep getting eager to learn more and join study groups and try to understand and try to really embrace the lifestyle,” Smith said. “Because if I’m going to give it a shot, that’s the only way it’s going to work.”
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