LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Junior guard Russ Smith will leave Louisville early to enter the NBA draft, according to his father.
Russ Smith Sr. said the Cardinals’ leading scorer “did it all” during a college career that culminated with Louisville’s 82-76 victory over Michigan on Monday night for the NCAA championship. That title, two Big East crowns and an all-conference first-team selection this season completes a resume he said made it easy for his son to move on to the next level.
Smith’s father said his son will announce his decision in the next week.
The 6-foot-1 Smith averaged 18.7 points this season, including 22.3 in six NCAA tournament games. But he struggled in the Cardinals’ title-clinching victory, missing 13 of 16 shots and finishing with nine points.
Nonetheless, Smith Sr. said, “he’s going.”
“Last night didn’t bother him,” Smith said Tuesday. “Even if he had gone 20 for 30, he just wanted to win. He’s happy for the guys that stepped up when he was struggling. That’s how I taught him to play.”
Calls to Louisville’s athletic department were not immediately returned. Cardinals players returned Tuesday to campus from Atlanta but coach Rick Pitino, members of the basketball staff, athletic director Tom Jurich and several administrative staffers went to New Orleans to watch the Louisville women play Connecticut in the NCAA final.
Smith has not hired an agent but his father said he plans to have input into that decision. His departure would likely leave Louisville without three starters from the championship team; guard Peyton Siva is graduating and 6-10 junior center Gorgui Dieng is expected to enter the NBA draft as well.
Nicknamed “Russdiculous” by Pitino because of his wild and unpredictable play, the slight but agile Smith provided plenty of highlights for the Cardinals — along with questionable shot selection. Before hitting a bump Monday, he was playing his best basketball this season. He averaged 25 points and three steals in the first five games of the tournament.
His father insisted those are signs he’s ready to take the next step.
“At this point, there’s no other reason for him to come back,” Smith said. “He’s had two sound years and did it all. He could come back next year but it might jeopardize his health. You’ve got to strike while the iron is hot.”