Listen Live
Waste Management Phoenix Open - Preview Day 3

Source: Ben Jared / Getty

It’s certainly been a year of change for J.R. Smith.

The two-time NBA champion is taking some time away from the hardwood as he furthers his higher education at North Carolina A&T. But while he’s focusing on his studies, he admittedly couldn’t stay away from organized sports and is now a walk-on for the university’s golf team. The newly minted Aggie understands the stark difference between the two sports, but the challenge hasn’t altered much.

“It’s going to be fun. Obviously different environments from playing in front of 20,000 people to playing in a college golf gallery,” Smith said Monday in an online news conference. “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 missed out on the college experience because he went straight to the NBA after graduating high school in 2004. However, the state of North Carolina always interested him, as he originally committed to UNC– who ironically won the NCAA Championship during his rookie year with the New Orleans Hornets.

“I wasn’t really playing my first year, and Carolina wins the NCAA championship, so I definitely thought about it a lot in my early years. But then after a while, school just disappeared in my mind,” he told HBCU Gameday. I didn’t think I’d have that urge or want to go back — or let alone courage to go back.

But now, as star athletes began to put more respect on HBCU’s sports programs — a movement heavily spearheaded by Chris Paul, who’s attending Winston-Salem State– Smith is happy to be a part of the culture.

Here’s how Twitter’s reacting to Smith’s new path:

J.R. Smith Cleared By NCAA to Play Golf As Student-Athlete For North Carolina A&T  was originally published on