Russ Smith, the leading scorer for the champion Louisville Cardinals, just might return for his senior season after all. According to coach Rick Pitino, Smith is torn on the decision to enter the NBA draft, which is contrary to what his father told reporters after the Cardinals defeated Michigan for the national championship in Atlanta.
On Monday night, the Louisville star’s father, Russ Smith Sr., initially said that his son had planned to enter the NBA draft, saying: “At this point, there’s no other reason for him to come back. He’s had two sound years and did it all. He could come back next year, but it might jeopardize his health. You’ve got to strike while the iron is hot.”
Smith confirmed his father’s statement the following day when he told SiriusXM “College Sports Nation” radio hosts Mark Packer and Bruce Pearl that “this is the right time.”
But Pitino, who had also confirmed Smith’s departure at the team’s pep rally earlier this week, said Thursday morning that the junior guard is still on the fence about going pro.
“Russ, I think, is 50-50,” he told Sports Radio 790 in Louisville. “He’s a very confused young man in terms of his decision right now. He didn’t want his dad to say that about him coming out. He wanted time to think of it.”
Smith struggled to find his shot in his team’s 82-76 victory over Michigan in the championship game. He went 3-for-16 and scored nine points. But he averaged 22.3 PPG overall in the NCAA tournament.
The NBA’s early-entry deadline for the draft is April 28. Per NCAA mandate, however, players with remaining eligibility must withdraw from the draft by Tuesday (April 16) to preserve it.