Louisville Basketball: Is Russ Smith a Future NBA Star?

Jon Hancock@@JonKYSportscoSenior Analyst IDecember 21, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 24:  Russ Smith #2 of the Louisville Cardinals moves the ball against Erving Walker #11 of the Florida Gators in the first half during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball West Regional Final at US Airways Center on March 24, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Louisville's Russ Smith has been taking the nation by storm so far this season. Although he is small in stature, the quick guard appears to be able to score on anyone in college basketball. But would he be able to score on NBA All-Stars like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant?

The 6'0" junior guard from Brooklyn, N.Y. is averaging 20.2 points and 2.7 assists this season. He is ranked eighth in the nation in steals with 3.1 per game. 

"Russ is tremendous because he is unguardable," Pitino said of Smith. "He gives you a dimension that most teams don’t have. He is unguardable and then he turns around and is the leading steals leader for a season at our school. On the ball offensively and on the ball defensively, he is pretty darn good.”

To think that Smith, who barely weighs 170 pounds, has a chance of making it to the NBA is unbelievable. When he came to Louisville from South Kent as a 3-star recruit, most believed he would be a solid backup point guard, but wouldn't contribute too much.

But while it seems well for the Cardinals and their fans, it almost didn't turn out that way.

Smith was planning on transferring to Manhattan before his sophomore season.

“He was coming to Manhattan," Manhattan coach Steve Masiello said, "I thought we had him. Things weren’t working out too well."

But because of the coaching style of Pitino, Smith decided to stay,"Coach has an unbelievable way," Masiello said, "he did it with Edgar Sosa, all of a sudden he tells guys to leave and they become terrific."

Now Smith is being featured in magazines and is even in the race for National Player of the Year. DraftExpress.com believes Smith will be picked in the first round of next year's draft. To think that a player that struggled to get playing time would later leave after his junior season is almost hard to believe.

Although Smith is having a lot of success, there are still some issues in his game that need to be addressed before even thinking about the next level.

Yes, the kid can fly up and down the court better than anyone in the country and can score 20 points in a game without blinking. But he struggles with turning the ball over and forcing bad shots, hence Rick Pitino's nickname for him "Russdiculous."

Since he is only 6'0" you would think he would be cautious about driving in on a 7-footer, but not Smith, he is not afraid of anyone—he is fearless.

Luckily Smith has a fantastic coach, who is willing to be patient and instruct him. With Pitino's experience getting players to the next level and having coached in the NBA, Russ is in good hands.

Smith is also learning to be a student of the game, watching NBA superstars like Rajon Rondo getting double-digit assists per game and being one of the best guards in the league at rebounding the ball.

So look out Kobe and LeBron, Russ Smith is coming and he is not afraid.

Jon Hancock is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

All stats used came from ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.

You can follow Jon on Twitter @JonKYSportsCo.


    Coach K: ‘I Have No Plans to Retire’

    College Basketball logo
    College Basketball

    Coach K: ‘I Have No Plans to Retire’

    Rob Dauster
    via CollegeBasketballTalk

    Chris Mack Going for Talented Big Men

    Louisville Cardinals Basketball logo
    Louisville Cardinals Basketball

    Chris Mack Going for Talented Big Men

    Big Red Louie
    via Big Red Louie

    Maryland Promotes Damon Evans to AD

    College Basketball logo
    College Basketball

    Maryland Promotes Damon Evans to AD

    via InsideMDSports

    4-Star PF Mason Gillis Commits to Purdue

    College Basketball logo
    College Basketball

    4-Star PF Mason Gillis Commits to Purdue

    Nathan Baird
    via Journal & Courier