On the court, Louisville's Russ Smith is known for his impetuousness. But in remaining with the Cardinals for his senior year, Smith has made a measured decision that undoubtedly pleases and surprises coach Rick Pitino. After the Cardinals won the national championship, Smith's dad declared his son ready for the NBA Draft. Isn't completing his eligibility the last thing to expect from a guy nicknamed Russdiculous?
Louisville will welcome back its top scorer (18.7 ppg), an Associated Press third-team All-American who epitomizes the Cardinals' disruptive, frantic style.
As a narrow-shouldered, 6-foot shooting guard, it's up for debate whether there is a place in the NBA for Smith. He was projected to go in the second round, 33rd overall by draftexpress.com, so there's not much money to be lost by staying. If he makes it in the NBA, he will have to play his way onto a roster regardless. If he's destined for Europe, why not stay another year? He can grow his brand, endear himself to Louisville fans and return as arguably the nation's most recognizable player.
In fact, with Smith, Luke Hancock and Kevin Ware, Louisville will be a rarity -- a college team that enters the season with several well-known and engaging characters. Imagine the buzz when Louisville faces archrival Kentucky, with the veteran backcourt of the Cardinals challenging the heralded Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron.
After a season in which college basketball suffered from a lack of interest, Smith's choice to stay in school is good for all involved.
- Kevin Dunleavy