J.R. Smith is going back to school and for the first time in his life he plans on competing in college athletics—but not in basketball.
The two-time NBA champion is enrolling at North Carolina A&T, a Historically Black University, and plans to join the Aggies golf team. Smith, 35, skipped college and was drafted with the No. 18 pick in the 2004 NBA draft out of St Benedict's Preparatory School in New Jersey, but he plans to attend college and get a degree in liberal studies.
"They always told me I could go back [to school] whenever," Smith said during Wednesday's pro-am at the Wyndham Championship. "So, this is whenever."
Smith said that former NBA shooting guard Ray Allen convinced him to make the return to school on a golf trip they made to the Dominican Republic.
“He was talking about some of the things he was doing by going back to school, challenging yourself and stuff for us athletes,” Smith said.
He also said he plays to a five handicap and learned how to golf 12 years ago from the late NBA legend Moses Malone at one of Malone's charity events. Richard Watkins, the coach of the Aggies men's and women's golf teams was in attendance on Wednesday and supported Smith's decision.
“It's a big deal for A&T. It's a big deal for him,” Watkins told PGATOUR.com. “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.”
Smith starts classes Aug. 18 and says he's waiting for the NCAA to sort out his eligibility. But if and when it does, Smith will be embarking on a whole new challenge.
"I can't wait to be a part of the HBCU family," Smith said. "I’ve really been embraced by everybody so far on campus. I’m looking forward to start going to football games and repping Aggie pride.”
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