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NCAA Clears J.R. Smith to Become Student-Athlete at North Carolina A&T

NCAA Clears J.R. Smith to Become Student-Athlete at North Carolina A&T

Previously at The Root, we reported that former NBA star J.R. Smith enrolled at North Carolina A&T with an expressed desire to not only pursue a degree in liberal studies, but to play on the school’s golf team. And now, courtesy of The Undefeated, comes the NCAA’s decision on his college eligibility:

Smith went straight to the NBA from high school in 2004 and never played a second of college hoops, but he still required the green light from the NCAA in order to join North Carolina A&T’s golf team. And at 35 years old, it’s safe to assume he’ll be the oldest student-athlete on the team—not that he gives a shit.

“It’s going to be fun,” he said Monday during a virtual news conference. “Obviously different environments from playing in front of 20,000 people to playing in a college golf gallery. But it’s still as nerve-wracking as shooting a free throw in front of 5,000 instead of making a 5-foot putt in front of three. So it all correlates the same for me.”

In deciding to return to college after a fruitful 16-year basketball career, the two-time NBA champion admitted the allure of attending an HBCU was irresistible, as he becomes the latest athlete to publicly advocate for historically black colleges. The fact that the NCAA has a new NIL policy in place—which still allows him to continue to cash in on his name, image, and likeness—made the decision even easier. Now it’s just a matter of acclimating to campus life.

“It’s not even a week yet,” Smith said. “But as I get into it, I keep getting eager to learn more and join study groups and try to understand and try to really embrace the lifestyle.”

I don’t miss my own college days at all, but congrats to J.R. for finally having the opportunity to experience his.