Two-time NBA champion J.R. Smith is headed back to school with hopes of playing collegiate golf.
After a successful 16-year career, Smith has enrolled at North Carolina A&T State University.
Smith will be pursuing a degree in liberal studies but he is waiting for the NCAA to work out the details of his eligibility before he becomes a part of the team. A high school All-American, Smith opted to skip college and declared himself eligible for the 2004 NBA Draft.
Selected with the 18th pick by the New Orleans Hornets, he won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award during the 2012-13 season. Also, he won two NBA titles as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers (2015-16) and the Los Angeles Lakers (2019-20).
After amassing an impressive professional basketball resume, he will now be a student-athlete at one of the most prestigious HBCUs.
“They always told me I could go back (to school) whenever,” referring to those who said he could enter college at any time. “So, this is whenever."
Smith spoke with WFMY about his decision to hit the books at 35-years old.
“One of the best liberal studies programs is at A&T and it just so happens I’ve got deep roots in Carolina with Chris Paul, C.J. Paul,” he said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in school. I’m excited though. It’s a new challenge. I’ve got nothing but free time right now. Between raising kids and going to school, my schedule is pretty full.”
Smith also revealed that he fell in love with golf after participating in Hall of Famer Moses Malone’s charity golf event 12 years ago. Malone forced Smith out of the cart and made him take a swing. After seeing the ball travel 300 yards, he’s been an avid golfer ever since.
Another Hall of Famer, Ray Allen, convinced Smith to go back to school during a golfing event.
"Ray Allen kind of convinced me," he said. "We had a little golf trip in [the Dominican Republic] and he was talking about some of the things he was doing, about going back to school and challenging yourself for us athletes. I really took heed to it and decided to go back—and one of the best liberal studies programs is at A&T."
Smith is looking forward to the challenge of being a student and pursuing his passion for golf." Golf is one of those games that has you feeling really high and or can bring you down to your knees and humble you," he explained. “To have that feeling and knowing that all of the game is pretty much on my own hands and I don’t have to worry about teammates to pass the ball to, receiving passes and playing defense—I can just play my game and have fun.”