By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — As expected, Arkansas star freshman Nick Smith, Jr., is entering the 2023 NBA Draft and forgoing the remaining three years of his college playing eligibility.
Smith (6-5 guard, Jacksonville native) is expected to retain his NIL representation — Rich Paul-owned Klutch Sport of Los Angeles — as his professional basketball agent.
He becomes the Arkansas men’s basketall program’s second one-and-done — leaving after his freshman season for the NBA Draft — as he joins fomer Hog and current Golden State Warriors guard Moses Moody, who played his freshman season at Arkansas in 2020-21 before declaring for the 2021 Draft and being selected 14th overall (first-round draft lottery).
Smith made his announcement via Twitter on Thursday morning …
“This year has been an incredible journey, and I am grateful for all the love and support I have received from my hometown and all the hog fans. I want to express my gratitude to my coach, Muss, and the entire coaching staff who believed in my abilities and allowed me the chance to play for Arkansas.
“To my teammates, who have been with me through the highs and lows of the season, thank you for your support and camaraderie. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors, and I love you, brothers 4L (for life). To my family and loved ones, especially my mother, father, brother, and sister, I’m so grateful for your unwavering support and sacrifice.
“That said, I am excited to announce that I am declaring for the 2023 NBA draft. Watch this…”
Smith missed more than half of his freshman season as a Razorback, playing in 17 games (and missing 19) with 12 of those coming after a two-month absence in the middle of the season. A two-time SEC Freshman of the Week honoree, Smith averaged 12.5 points, 1.7 assists, and 1.6 assists in 25.8 minutes per game while shooting 37.6% from the field, including 33.8% from 3, and 74.0% from the free throw line.
He scored 20 or more points five times, including his career-high 26 points in a home win over Georgia. Smith also had game-saving performances in wins over Auburn in the SECT (he hit the game-winning shot and finished with 14 points) and North Carolina-Greensboro (team-high 22 points), and his 21-point effort was key in the Hogs’ revenge-win over Oklahoma in December in Tulsa. He had a game-high 24 points to go with 6 rebounds and 2 steals in an 86-83 road loss to then-No. 2 Alabama; and he had a team-high 25 points to go with 6 assists, 4 steals, and 3 rebounds in the team’s 88-79 home loss to then-No. 23 Kentucky.
The top-rated incoming college freshman and a consensus Top 10 lottery pick by 2023 mock drafts before he played his first game as a Hog, Smith never quite got into a rhythm or groove as he was effectively working through mid-season form once the team advanced to the postseason.