J.R. Smith’s college golf eligibility, explained: How NCAA amateurism rules could impact ex-NBA player

Basketball

J.R. Smith’s college golf eligibility, explained: How NCAA amateurism rules could impact ex-NBA player


J.R. Smith is becoming a college student and he’s hoping to become a college athlete as well.

Smith, 35, played 16 seasons in the NBA but is hoping to play golf in college. He became an avid golfer during his NBA days and wants to compete for North Carolina A&T’s men’s golf team.

“That North Carolina connection with Chris and C.J. [Paul] was there,” Smith said of making N.C. A&T his college destination, per John Dell of the Winston-Salem Journal. “Then I just had to figure out if I still have eligibility.”

Smith is awaiting a decision on his eligibility, one that’s complicated by his previous status as a professional athlete.

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The NCAA hasn’t yet ruled, but he and the people at N.C. A&T seem to believe he could become eligible. Aggies coach Richard Watkins said that though Smith was a professional basketball player, he never went to college so he may still be eligible to participate in college sports.

“It’s not very often that somebody in his position really has an opportunity to do this and to be able to go ahead and move in that direction,” Watkins said. “You know, he’s a former professional athlete, but it’s a set of circumstances where he didn’t go to college out of high school. His (eligibility) clock never started.”

Indeed, Smith was drafted out of St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, N.J., in 2004. The then-New Orleans Hornets selected him 18th overall, so he didn’t use any college eligibility playing basketball — or any other sport, for that matter. That checks one box for him.

The issue is less related to Smith’s eligibility clock, however. It’s likely more related to the principle of amateurism by which the NCAA still abides.

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Whether Smith can even be considered an amateur will likely be the focus of the NCAA’s investigation into his eligibility. There are numerous activities in which Smith has participated that would potentially prevent him from receiving a final amateurism certificate from the NCAA.

It’s true that recent name, image and likeness (NIL) laws have rendered some of the core pillars of amateurism obsolete. Athletes can now receive money for promoting products. Smith, then, wouldn’t have to worry about his previous endorsement deals. But other issues will impact his quest to become a college athlete.

Smith has signed a contract with an agent in the past. That is against the NCAA’s bylaws, as is receiving benefits from an agent. He also has received compensation from his club teams, which the NCAA only allows if “payments do not exceed costs for the individual to participate on the team.” But that rule applies specifically to athletes in high school. It’s unclear whether the NCAA would view Smith’s case differently.

Of course, all of Smith’s violations of amateurism principles came as a result of his NBA career. And as ESPN notes, NCAA bylaws allow pro athletes to participate in college sports so long as they’re not the sports in which the athlete was a pro.

Could Smith claim that he’s an amateur golfer and should be allowed to compete in the sport in college? That will likely be the argument he has to make to be ruled eligible.

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Smith is an accomplished golfer who got his start playing in Moses Malone’s charity classic in 2009. Per Bleacher Report, Smith was just tagging along with Rashard Lewis before Malone had him hit the ball.

“Then Moses is like, ‘Get your ass out of the cart and play,’ Smith said. “So I go out there and hit the ball like 300 yards dead center. Just like that; the first hit. I even used the same form I have right now.”

Smith has played frequently since then and has become very good. He has a 5 handicap, which means he’s expected to average a score of 5 over par on any course.

During his adventures on the course, he has befriended such golf pros as Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Keegan Bradley. He has participated in pro-am tournaments, including the one at this year’s Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C., where N.C. A&T is located. He was participating in the event Wednesday when he announced his intention to play golf for the Aggies.

Now, it’s just a matter of whether the NCAA will allow him to do it. If it does, Smith is looking forward to playing a game that allows him to “just have fun.”

“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, per PGATour.com’s Helen Ross. “And to have that feeling and knowing that 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.”


Article Found At – Sporting News

 


 

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