Conventional wisdom held that Russ Smith, Louisville’s leading scorer from it’s NCAA championship team, would be headed to the NBA after a remarkable junior season. That wisdom was apparently way off, as Smith has announced he will return for his senior season.
The 6’1″ guard averaged 18.7 points per game this season and 22.3 in the NCAA tournament. Smith helped lead Louisville to a 35-5 record and the school’s third national title. He was an all-Big East Conference first team selection along with teammate Gorgui Dieng, who has put his name into the NBA Draft pool.
Smith had the following to say about his decision:
“I’m happy I finally got it off my chest. What was crazy after doing all the pros and cons of staying or going, the pros of stayer were so much better than the pros of leaving.”
“All my pros I put down for me leaving were very immature. You have to put the work in to get better, you have to do this, you have to do that. Those are challenges I felt like, along with coach, we both felt I’d be running away from, getting better and maturing as a player.”
Smith will now turn his focus to trying to help Louisville repeat as champions after leading the school to back-to-back Final Fours. Fellow starters Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear return for the Cardinals, as does the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, Luke Hancock. Reserves Stephan Van Treese, Montrezl Harrell and Tim Henderson will all be back as well.
At just 165 pounds, Smith needs to gain weight and strength to compete in the NBA. Most experts had him projected as a second-round pick. So he certainly has a lot to work on as a senior. Returning to school was the right decision for Smith in our opinion.