2016 NBA Champion J.R. Smith is preparing to play in his first collegiate golf tournament on October 11-12. Smith will represent North Carolina A&T University at the Phoenix Invitational hosted by Elon in Burlington, North Carolina. The former NBA star qualified for the par-71 tournament by one stroke during practice earlier this month.
"It's going to be fun," Smith said during a news conference in August.
"Obviously different environments from playing in front of 20,000 people to playing in a college golf gallery."
Having played on the biggest stages of basketball, Smith is prepared for the moment. However, it is a different sport with different expectations and the collegiate golfer is preparing for that adjustment.
"But it's still as nerve-wracking as shooting a free throw in front of 5,000 instead of making a 5-foot putt in front of three. So it all correlates the same for me," Smith explained.
Smith's coach, Richard Watkins, is also confident that he can step in during his first tournament and make a difference.
"The performance of my golf team just got a helping hand because the young man in question is definitely a good player," Watkins told ESPN.
Beyond the golf course, Smith has also began a liberal studies track at the historically Black university. During the first six weeks of school, he's attracted a number of new social media followers who are entertained by his stories about freshman year. At 36 years old with a family, Smith is reenergized and excited by this new challenge in his life.
"For me, because I have a wild imagination, it's going to be very interesting. I don't know if the professor is prepared for that, and I'm obviously not the average freshman. So I don't know how I'm going to do," Smith said in August.
"It's not even a week yet, but as I get into it, I keep getting eager to learn more and join study groups and try to understand and try to really embrace the lifestyle."