In early June,
Because he supports a young son, Smith had to take finances into consideration, and there might have been decent six-figure deals waiting in places such as Greece or Turkey -- or he could've gambled on getting drafted in the second round and earning a non-guaranteed NBA roster spot. Smith said then that he'd make his stay-or-go decision based on his gut feeling.
Within 10 days, Smith held a press conference to announce he was sticking with the Volunteers. Curiously, he said, "My gut feeling was leaning toward leaving. But then in talking to my family, friends and teammates these past few days, I've decided to return for my senior year." He'd been convinced that Tennessee could do something special in 2009-10, and also that he might have a better shot at making an NBA roster after another year of college. It seemed logical: Who would choose anonymity in Turkey or possibly the NBADL over the chance to take one more shot at a deep NCAA tournament run?
In hindsight, Smith would've been better off going with his gut. Istanbul would've been lonely, but he wouldn't have been in a Dodge Charger with three Vols teammates, two handguns (one with the serial number filed down), marijuana and open alcohol containers on New Year's Day. The car was pulled over by Knoxville police for speeding, and Smith was charged with possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed and alteration of an item's permanent identification number. He and teammates
This weekend was supposed to be huge for Tennessee's program -- in a good way. Top-ranked (and undefeated) Kansas is coming to town on Sunday to face the 16th-ranked Vols. An upset would've propelled them into the top 10 and established them as a legitimate challenger to Kentucky in the SEC East. But instead of talking about the Jayhawks on Friday, coach
Williams, Tatum and Goins remain suspended indefinitely. A depleted Tennessee team doesn't seem to stand much of a chance against Kansas -- and without Smith for the rest of the season, it's difficult to see them doing any contending in a strong SEC. The 6-foot-7 Smith was arguably the college game's best point forward; while his scoring numbers were down from his junior season (11.7 points per game compared to 17.4), he was putting up career highs in field-goal percentage (57.3), assists (3.7 per game) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.8-to-1).
Neither Goins nor fellow point guard
As for what's next for Smith, he'll first have to navigate the courts -- and the fact that he was the lone player dismissed suggests that he's directly linked to the weapons found in the car. He'll be arraigned on Jan. 14 in Knoxville, and his attorney, Tennessee alum
Prior to this incident, Smith had been viewed as a sympathetic figure. He transferred away from Iowa in 2007 to be closer to his father,
One NBA scouting director SI.com spoke with on Friday said he'd advise Smith to try to sign with an NBADL team as soon as soon as possible; at least two other draft-eligible players,
In a Q&A
On Friday, his dream of a Final Four was dashed, and he left his team to soldier on without its valuable point forward. If Smith wants to realistically imagine a pro career, he'll need to do some growing up first.