BOZICH: Smith Feels Tug of Louisville -- And The NBA - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH: Smith Feels Tug of Louisville -- And The NBA

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Louisville guard Russ Smith said he is losing sleep over his NBA decision, but will make it Wednesday Louisville guard Russ Smith said he is losing sleep over his NBA decision, but will make it Wednesday

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Even Monday evening, two weeks after the University of Louisville won the 2013 NCAA basketball championship, Russ Smith argued both sides of the debate about whether Russ Smith should return for his senior season or make his move toward a professional career.

He gave a 12-second response about what he will be missing if he leaves college next month and then six more seconds about what he will miss if he waits another season before making his push toward the NBA.

Do not misinterpret that as a guy who is twice as likely to stay in college as he is to move to the pros. Smith has not budged from the "50-50," assessment that he gave after the Cardinals returned from Atlanta – and he won't until he huddles with U of L coach Rick Pitino Tuesday and then announces his decision Wednesday.

"If I were to leave, I'm leaving behind a great fan base," Smith said. "I'm leaving behind my education. I'm leaving behind some accolades I could get. I'm leaving behind my teammates.

"But if I stay, I'm leaving behind a year of potentially starting my career somewhere."

And so it goes. Not much has changed in the last week. A few more college guys have announced their decisions for next season. Smith is ranked the 57th best NBA prospect by Chad Ford of ESPN.com. The folks at DraftExpress.com are considerably more optimistic about his chances, ranking Smith the third pick in the second round.

(CLICK HERE FOR THE DRAFT EXPRESS MOCK DRAFT)

His teammates say they do not bother him with questions because they have noticed how everybody else does. It is a decision that only Smith can make – with the assistance of his parents and Pitino. The emotional bond of shared experiences with teammates only makes it more difficult.

"I told him that I loved him and that if he needed anything from me that I would be there for him," said Luke Hancock, who will return for his senior season.

"We've been talking a lot," said Gorgui Dieng, another U of L junior who has already decided to enter the draft. "I've been trying to tell him that going to the NBA is something you have to be ready by yourself.

"It's not like everybody saying he's ready or he's not ready. If he feels mentally that he's ready, he can leave. If not, he can do whatever he wants. Leaving college and going to the NBA, that's another level. You have to be ready for yourself. It's not somebody making you feel ready."

Smith understands that. But unlike Dieng, he's not a certain first-round pick, a guy assured of guaranteed money. He could play his way into the NBA—or he could be riding a bus in the NBA Developmental League or packing his passport and heading overseas. The uncertainty is what defines and feeds the struggle.

"Toughest one I've ever made," Smith said. "I didn't have that many colleges. When I got the University of Louisville (offer), it was a landslide. I came here."

"In high school, it was between (Archbishop) Molloy and Lincoln. My mom and dad were big academic people, they wanted me to go to Molloy. I've never made a decision this big in my life."

"I lose sleep. I've been losing sleep, especially the last week and a half. I've been trying to work out just to keep my mind off of it. It's really tough. It's not easy."

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