Russ Smith, the superstar guard for the national championship-winning Louisville Cardinals, will enter the 2013 NBA draft, according to his father.
UPDATE: Thursday, Apr. 11 at 2:35 p.m. ET by Sam Westmoreland
After we thought the Russ Smith NBA Draft saga was resolved, Rick Pitino has muddied the waters, telling Sports Radio 790 in Louisville that the talented junior is still very much on the fence about going pro, according to a report from ESPN.com.
"Russ, I think, is 50-50," he told Sports Radio 790 in Louisville. "He's a very confused young man in terms of his decision right now. He didn't want his dad to say that about him coming out. He wanted time to think of it."
While it seemed like Smith was a lock to declare, now it seems like he might still be deciding. Maybe Cardinals fans will have their prolific scorer back for his senior season, after all.
UPDATE: Tuesday, Apr. 9 at 9:17 p.m. ET by Eric Ball
“My dad obviously put it out there [to] say that I’m going to enter the Draft,” Smith said. “We both feel like this is the right time, while coming off the national championship, while the talk about my game is still there. And it’s just the right time. You never know what’s going to happen next year. I’m real lucky to be in the situation I am now so this’ll be the best time and we’ll just see from there. But, as of right now, I gotta get back in the gym, get my weight back. I lost nine pounds, 10 pounds, believe it or not, this season and now I have a lot of time to get that weight to stay on me. So I feel like going into, maybe two months from now I could get maybe 15 pounds back on my body and just develop parts of my game that weren’t there and get healthy again.”
Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated wrote that Russ Smith Sr. made the announcement while watching his son, a junior, cut down the nets in Atlanta.
The elder Smith said:
When you go out, you want to go out with a national championship. He's got five rings: back-to-back Big East, back-to-back Final Four, national championship. What other way to go out?
He went on to confirm that this was Smith Jr.’s last season with the Cardinals, and the star will be “gone” shortly.
It’s a bit of an unexpected revelation, even though the Brooklyn, N.Y., native did lead Louisville to a national title and averaged an impressive 18.7 points per game. Smith is simply not a great NBA prospect and has issues that scouts and general managers are already leery of.
His frame is certainly cause for concern, as a 6’1”, 165-pound shooting guard will be hard-pressed to find the same success against bigger, stronger and faster professional defenders.
Another issue is his penchant for playing recklessly, taking low-percentage shots and being a hindrance to his team’s chances of winning at times. “Russdiculous” earned his nickname for these types of performances and lived up to the moniker even during the championship game on Monday night.
Smith played 32 minutes and only connected on 3-of-16 shot attempts, scoring just nine points on the night. His contributions in other aspects of the game were minor at best, including one rebound and two assists. He also picked up four fouls and registered three turnovers.
With questionable court vision—and facilitating being more forced than natural for this young man—it’s hard to foresee an organization drafting Smith with hopes of converting him into a point guard.
Where will Smith be drafted?
Perhaps Smith’s father decided to make this proclamation because the timing was right.
The guard’s stock is not likely going to get any higher. There’s even a chance he could sneak into the latter portion of the first round come June. The 2013 class is far from the most talented group we’ve seen, while the 2014 first-round crop could be much deeper and tougher for Smith to crack.
It’s not completely unheard of for an undersized 2 to come in and make a difference in an NBA game, especially off the bench. If Smith is able to cull his bad decisions and concentrate on providing a burst of scoring in short, controlled stretches, he could be an asset in the Association.