Return to Louisville good for Russ Smith
by Adam Himmelsbach, USA TODAY Sports
In the afterglow of Louisville’s national championship last April, Russ Smith should have been soaking up the adulation and enjoying the accomplishments. But chances for reflection vanished quickly.
“It was probably one of the toughest times of my life,” Smith said Saturday afternoon.
We knew Smith faced the presumably difficult choice of whether to stay or go. But that, it turns out, was not actually the tough part.
Even though Smith loved Louisville as much as you could possibly love a city, he was ready to chase his NBA dream. The tough part was hearing that NBA teams weren’t necessarily ready to make it a reality, at least not yet. For Russ Smith, it was back to the start.
“When you look at guys that put up numbers the way I did in the tournament and the whole season and just everything I’ve done here,” Smith said, “I thought there should be no reason why I shouldn’t go in the first round.”
But then U of L coach Rick Pitino told him otherwise, and the truth hurt. Smith said Pitino told him he would probably go in the draft’s mid-to-late second round. He told him if he wanted to be a first-round pick, he needed to become more polished, more poised.
“As I watched film and looked at myself, and Coach P talked to me about what certain teams want and what certain people want from me, I got to see it for myself,” Smith said. “And it was really humbling.”
But the thing about Russ Smith is he doesn’t really dwell on what could have been. He stays trained on the present and the possible. And when he realized his best option would be to return to Louisville for his senior season, he also realized that’s really not a bad option at all.
Then, finally, he could exhale. He could enjoy a slice of summer. He went to the ESPY Awards and met comedian Chris Tucker and Good Morning America host Robin Roberts.
“The funniest guy I met was the Allstate guy,” Smith said. “…To see him there was pretty cool.”
He went to Estonia and played in the … [For more on One more year in Louisville looking good for Russ Smith, click here.]