Russ Smith's father left no doubt that the junior guard won't be returning to Louisville, telling Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated in no uncertain terms that the speedy scorer will declare for the NBA draft after his Cardinals won the national championship Monday night.
Smith himself still hasn't said anything, but his dad, Russ Smith Sr., was pretty adamant about his son's future:
"When you go out, you want to go out with a national championship," Smith Sr. said. "He's got five rings: back-to-back Big East, back-to-back Final Four, national championship. What other way to go out?"
So that's it?
It's not a bad idea to go out on top with a ring, although the junior isn't the greatest draft prospect. For all his explosion as a scorer -- he averaged 18.7 points on the season, repeatedly showing his ability to finish at absurd angles in transition -- he's an undersized player at 6'0 without a great jump shot who isn't interested in passing much. And although he was arguably the best defender in college basketball, there are concerns his size won't translate to the pros. And he disappeared Monday night -- after averaging 25 points per game through the first few rounds of the NCAA Tournament, he went 3-for-16 in the championship. The superstar season should outweigh the one bad outing, but it wasn't good to face up against a lottery pick in Trey Burke and seem the lesser player.
He should be good for an early second-round or late first-round pick, and could hang around the league for a long time if his defense stays up to par and he learns to distribute or how to consistently knock down open threes. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and there might not be much left to prove at Louisville -- especially after winning a title.
For what it's worth, his coach is all for it:
"I want to encourage all my guys to put their name in the draft for the experience," Pitino says, clearly not understanding the new rules.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) April 9, 2013