Five years ago, JR Smith helped the Cleveland Cavaliers pull off an incredible comeback in the NBA Finals, but his latest comeback may be even more impressive. Seventeen years after putting his education on hold to pursue a professional basketball career, he has decided that he would like to get a college degree. Inspired by fellow NBA Champion Ray Allen, Smith told reporters that he has enrolled at North Carolina A&T where he hopes to obtain a liberal studies degree.
"Ray Allen kind of convinced me," Smith said at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina on Wednesday.
"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's decision to pursue a college degree at 35 years old comes as a bit of a surprise, but his school choice does not. Prior to entering the 2004 NBA Draft, Smith was heavily recruited by Roy Williams to join the University of North Carolina men's basketball program. While he didn't enroll at the University of North Carolina, he didn't go too far. The two schools are separated by a 50-minute drive.
In addition to pursuing a college degree, Smith also plans to join the school's golf team. The former NBA champion is an enthusiast of the sport and the school's coach is excited at the possibility of having him on the team.
"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," coach Richard Watkins said.
Unfortunately, there may be an obstacle to joining the school's golf team. While he did play in the NBA, he did not use any of his collegiate eligibility within the NCAA, so he is eligible to play just about any sport other than basketball. However, Smith graduated high school in 2004 which makes obtaining his records a bit more difficult. Still, the university is confident that it can handle this matter.
"We're just going through the normal process we would go through with any prospective student-athlete," North Carolina A&T spokesperson Brian Holloway explained.
"But this one is just a little different."
Regardless of his athletic eligibility, Smith should be getting ready for the fall semester. Classes begin on August 18.