“They always told me I could go back (to school) whenever. So, this is whenever.”
JR Smith may be 35 years old, but that doesn’t mean he’s given up on his athletic ambitions.
Smith, a 16-year NBA veteran, has enrolled at North Carolina A&T State University in order to join the golf team there.
He plans to major in liberal studies and begin classes on August 18, but he is waiting for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to clear his eligibility before joining the team of one of the nation’s top historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Smith skipped college and went straight to the NBA after graduating from high school in 2004, but he said he started thinking about college during a trip to the Dominican Republic with Hall of Famer Ray Allen.
“Golf is one of those games that can either make you feel really good or bring you down to your knees and humble you,” Smith, a two-time NBA champion, told WFMY News 2 Sports on Wednesday ahead of the Wyndham Championship pro-am.
“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, who claims to be a five-handicap player, is frequently seen in the gallery at PGA Tour events.
He has filed a petition with the NCAA to be allowed to play, but it is unclear 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 prohibit a former professional athlete from participating in another sport.
Smith’s arrival is a “big deal,” according to Richard Watkins, who coaches both the men’s and women’s teams at the university.
“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 has appeared in the NBA for a variety of teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020.