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October 21, 2021
JR Smith: Two-time NBA champion heads to college with eyes set on playing golf

JR Smith: Two-time NBA champion heads to college with eyes set on playing golf

JR Smith may be 35 years old, but that doesn’t mean his athletic dreams are extinguished.

Smith, a 16-year NBA veteran, has enrolled at North Carolina A&T State University with the intention of joining the university’s golf team.
He is primarily pursuing a degree in liberal studies — his classes start on August 18 — but he is waiting for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to work out his eligibility before he applies for the team of one of the nation’s top historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Smith skipped going to college and went straight from high school to the NBA in 2004 but said he began thinking about going to college during a trip to the Dominican Republic with Hall of Famer Ray Allen.

“Golf is one of those games that has you feeling really high and or can bring you down to your knees and humble you,” Smith — who is a two-time NBA champion — told WFMY News 2 Sports on Wednesday ahead of the pro-am at the Wyndham Championship.
Smith hits his tee shot at the 10th hole prior to The Northern Trust at Ridgewood Country Club on August 22, 2018.

“And to have that feeling and knowing that all of the game’s pretty much on my own hands, and I don’t have to worry about teammates to pass the ball and receiving passes and playing defense, so I can play my game and just have fun.”

Smith can often be seen among the gallery at PGA Tour events — and he says he plays to a five handicap.

He has petitioned the NCAA to be eligible to play but it is not clear on how long that process will take.

According to NCAA rules: “An individual shall not be eligible for intercollegiate athletics in a sport if the individual ever competed on a professional team in that sport.”

It does not ban a former professional athlete from competing in a different sport.

Richard Watkins, who coaches both the men’s and women’s teams at the university, said Smith’s arrival is a “big deal.”

“It’s a big deal for A&T. It’s a big deal for him,” Watkins, who was in Smith’s gallery on Wednesday, said. “It’s not very often that somebody in his position really has an opportunity to have a thought, a dream, an idea, and to be able to go ahead and move in that direction.

“He’s a former professional athlete, but (it’s) a unique set of circumstances. He didn’t go to college, never matriculated, the clock never started.”

The 6-foot-6 shooting guard played professionally for a host of NBA teams, winning NBA titles with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 and Los Angeles Lakers in 2020.