Former Laker JR Smith Eyeing NCAA Eligibility to Play Golf at N.C. A&T

Blake SchusterContributor IAugust 11, 2021

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 04: JR Smith #21 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after a three point basket during the first half against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the 2020 NBA Finals at AdventHealth Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on October 04, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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JR Smith played 1,117 NBA games over his 16-year career. He earned an estimated $90.3 million for his work and has two championship rings to show for it. He's also hoping he still has a bit of NCAA eligibility left. 

Now 35 years old and retired from pro basketball, Smith is going back to school, enrolling at N.C. A&T and just maybe joining the HBCU's golf team. Speaking to reporters at the Wyndham Championship Pro-Am in North Carolina on Wednesday, Smith confirmed he'll begin taking classes on August 18 and is waiting for the NCAA clearinghouse to rule on whether or not he'll be allowed to play golf at the collegiate level. 

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.<a href="https://twitter.com/TheRealJRSmith?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TheRealJRSmith</a> talks about his journey enrolling at North Carolina A&amp;T and hopefully playing on the golf team 💯<br><br>Real one.<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/bhallwfmy?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@bhallwfmy</a>)<a href="https://t.co/nycPaGrTTk">pic.twitter.com/nycPaGrTTk</a>

In the meantime, the No. 18 overall pick of the Charlotte Hornets in 2004 has been playing practice rounds with several members of the N.C. A&T team since late July. 

“It's not very often that somebody in his position really has an opportunity to do this and to be able to go ahead and move in that direction,” Aggies coach Richard Watkins told John Dell of the Winston-Salem Journal. “You know, he's a former professional athlete, but it’s a set of circumstances where he didn’t go to college out of high school. His [eligibility] clock never started.”

Smith, who reportedly plays a 5 handicap, said former NBA star Moses Malone taught him how to play golf more than a decade ago and he's been working on his game ever since. As he prepares to major in liberal studies at N.C. A&T, the 2013 NBA Sixth Man of the Year said he's ready to embrace the challenge of becoming a student-athlete 17 years after bypassing college for the NBA.  

“It's been a long, long time since I've been in school,” Smith said “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.”