J.R. Smith is lastly getting the college-athlete expertise he missed out on practically twenty years in the past.
The 16-year NBA veteran who skipped school basketball, gained two world championships and made thousands and thousands is now a freshman walk-on for the North Carolina A&T males’s golf group. Now, as an alternative of first-class cross-country journey for nightly video games towards the world’s greatest basketball gamers, Smith — who turns 36 subsequent month — is targeted on finishing class assignments and dealing on his golf recreation.
“It’ll be enjoyable,” Smith mentioned Monday in a web-based information convention. “Clearly completely different environments from enjoying in entrance of 20,000 individuals to enjoying in a university golf gallery.
“However it’s nonetheless as nerve-racking as capturing a free throw in entrance of 5,000 as an alternative of constructing a 5-foot putt in entrance of three. So all of it correlates the identical for me.”
Smith mentioned he was drawn to the Greensboro, North Carolina, faculty due to his curiosity in attending a Traditionally Black Faculty or College, which follows a push by the NBA and its gamers to help HBCU traditions and tradition on this 12 months’s All-Star Recreation in Atlanta.
Smith is returning to the state the place he was initially slated to play school basketball. The 6-foot-6 guard was set to affix tradition-rich North Carolina below Roy Williams in 2004, however as an alternative jumped straight to the NBA and was a first-round draft decide.
He scored greater than 12,000 regular-season factors whereas enjoying for 5 NBA groups. That included becoming a member of LeBron James in successful titles with Cleveland in 2016 and the Los Angeles Lakers within the Florida pandemic bubble in 2020 – and celebrating every in memorable shirtless vogue.
That was then. That is now.
Over the previous two days, Smith has been tweeting about an impending project deadline: his first Powerpoint presentation for an English class about the place he noticed himself within the subsequent 5 to 10 years.
“For me, as a result of I’ve a wild creativeness, it will be very fascinating,” Smith mentioned. “I do not know if the professor is ready for that, and I am clearly not the typical freshman. So I do not know the way I’ll do.”
As for his golf recreation, Smith mentioned he is been enjoying for about 12 years. As he took the sport extra severely, he frequented driving ranges and labored to enhance his swing on his personal, by no means hiring a coach whereas choosing up occasional suggestions from watching Golf Channel.
“I simply know compete with myself,” Smith mentioned. “As being a shooter and with golf, it correlates to making an attempt to hit completely different photographs and your creativity, and that swing and attempt to have that stream and tempo.”
That self-taught fashion was sufficient to impress PGA professional Dustin Johnson, who said in 2016: “He can play.”
Aggies coach Richard Watkins agrees with Johnson.
“The efficiency of my golf group simply acquired a serving to hand as a result of the younger man in query is certainly a very good participant,” Watkins mentioned of Smith.
The Aggies’ first golf match comes Sept. 24-25 on the Black Faculty Golf Coaches Affiliation Invitational in Newnan, Georgia.
Till then, Smith can be busy juggling faculty work — most of his programs are on-line at present — and dealing on his golf recreation.
Smith mentioned that is precisely what he needs from his delayed school expertise.
“It is not even every week but however as I get into it, I hold getting desirous to be taught extra, and be part of examine teams and attempt to perceive and attempt to actually embrace the approach to life,” Smith mentioned. “As a result of if I’ll work.”