Ex-NBA Player JR Smith Shooting for Spot on College Golf Team at North Carolina A&T

The 35-year-old will be attending the historically Black university this fall to pursue a degree in liberal studies

J.R. Smith
J.R. Smith smiles at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale.
Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty

After spending 16 years as a professional sharpshooter in the NBA, two-time champion JR Smith is hoping to be able to get it in the hole for a college golf team.

At the age of 35, Smith has enrolled at North Carolina A&T as a liberal studies major and hopes to be cleared by the NCAA to play on the historically Black university’s golf team in the fall.

Smith, who played for the Hornets, Nuggets, Knicks, Cavaliers and Lakers but did not play during the 2020-21 season after winning the championship the prior year, went to the NBA straight from high school and should theoretically have five years to complete four years of NCAA eligibility as a collegiate athlete.

Speaking to reporters at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina, Smith, who plays with a 5 handicap, said he decided to go back to school after a conversation with Basketball Hall of Famer Ray Allen.

“Ray Allen kind of convinced me,” Smith said at the golf event, per ESPN. “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.” Allen did go back to school too but did not attempt to play an NCAA sport.

Smith, who had committed to the University of North Carolina out of high school but did not attend, said scouts always told him the door never closed on going to college during the recruitment process.

“They always told me I could go back (to school) whenever,” he said, according to PGATour.com. “So, this is whenever. I’ve got no free time now. Raising kids and going to school, my schedule will be full. I can’t wait to be a part of the HBCU family. 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.”

As good as he is, Smith only started playing golf 12 years ago after attending a charity event for the late Basketball Hall of Famer Moses Malone, according to USA Today.

“Golf is one of those games that has you feeling really high and or can bring you down to your knees and humble you,” Smith said. “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 will be moving his family of five to Greensboro and starts classes on August 18 while he waits on the NCAA to sort out his eligibility. Hopefully, drug testing is not involved …

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