Former NBA standout JR Smith enrolled at North Carolina A&T and intends to join the historic black university’s golf team if approved by the NCAA, the university confirmed Wednesday.
Brian Holloway, spokesman for A&T Athletics in North Carolina, told ESPN that Smith was officially enrolled at the school and made a petition to the NCAA to be eligible to play. Smith’s clock to compete as a fellow athlete has not started since he went to high school to the NBA. Athletes are given in most cases five years to qualify for four years.
At the pro-am at the Wyndham Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, Smith told reporters on Wednesday that he had decided to go back to school after a conversation with Basketball Hall of Famer Ray Allen.
“Ray Allen kind of convinced me,” Smith said during the golf event on Wednesday. ‘We had a little golf trip [Dominican Republic] and he talked about some of the things he does, about going back to school and challenging yourself for our athletes. I really considered it and decided to go back – and one of the best programs for liberal studies is at A&T. ”
Holloway said the next step in the process is navigating the 17 years since Smith’s high school years (2004), making the search for his academic records difficult. But Smith is actively working to be eligible, he said.
“We’re just going through the normal process we would go through with any prospective student-athlete,” Holloway said. “But this one is just a little different.”
According to NCAA rules, “an individual may not be eligible for intercollegiate athletics in a sport if the individual has ever participated in a professional team in the sport.” But the laws prohibit a former pro athlete from participating in another sport. Several collegiate athletes practiced professional sports before returning to school to participate in Division I athletics.
Chris Weinke was 25 when he enrolled at Florida State after six seasons of professional baseball. Weinke led Florida State to a national title in 1999. He won the Heisman Trophy a year later, when he was 28 years old.
Smith plays with a 5-handicap, according to PGATour.com. North Carolina coach Richard Watkins told the website on Wednesday that Smith would be a major problem for A&T.
“It’s not very often that someone in his position really has an opportunity to have a thought, a dream, an idea, and to be able to move in that direction,” Watkins said. ‘He is a former professional athlete, but [it’s] a unique set of circumstances. He did not go to university, never matriculated, the clock never started. “
Smith, a McDonald’s All-American in high school, was originally committed to playing for Roy Williams and North Carolina before deciding to hire an agent and enter the 2004 NBA draft. The New Orleans Hornets selected Smith with the 18th pick. Smith has two NBA titles as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers (2015-16) and the Los Angeles Lakers (2019-20). He also won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award during the 2012-13 season.