Two-time NBA champion returns to school to take up golf as Brooks Koepka sends message

Brooks Koepka interview interrupted by Bryson DeChambeau

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NBA star JR Smith has returned to school after enrolling at North Carolina A&T with the aim of taking up college golf. Smith is recognised as one of American basketball’s standout performers from recent years, having won the NBA title in 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and then in 2020 for the Los Angeles Lakers.

However after 16 years as a professional basketballer, the two-time champion has now set his sights on conquering a new sport in golf.

After enrolling at North Carolina A&T this week Smith intends to join the University’s golf team if he is cleared by the National College Athletic Association (NCCA).

Smith – who currently plays off a handicap of five – featured in this week’s pro-am at the Wyndham Championship on Wednesday, and revealed he had made the decision to return to college, and in-turn is looking to chase his golfing dream.

The two-time NBA winner told the press at Wednesday’s pro-am that Basketball Hall of Famer Ray Allen was a huge influence on his decision to head back to school.

Smith said: “Ray Allen kind of convinced me.  “We had a little golf trip in [the Dominican Republic] and he was talking about some of the things he was doing, about going back to school and challenging yourself for us athletes. 

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“I really took heed to it and decided to go back — and one of the best liberal studies programs is at A&T.”

Following his college return a number of golf’s biggest names have congratulated the 35-year-old on his decision, no more so than four-time major winner Brooks Koepka.

As a result, the 2017 and 2018 US Open champion showed his support on social media after tweeting: “Never too late congrats @TheRealJRSmith this is awesome!”

Whilst taking part in this week’s pro-am in North Carolina, Smith was seen conversing with playing partner, and five time PGA Tour winner Rickie Fowler about tips to help out his swing whilst they were out on the course.

The NBA star asked: “On your swing what are you focusing on? I think I’m focusing a little too hard on my grip. I don’t have any grip in my right hand because my left hand is strong, but I still don’t feel like I’m getting through it.

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Offering his expert opinion Fowler replied: “Something I’ve been working on is kinda staying in posture. My tendency is too almost… get too flat so I’m trying to stay in better posture. That could be something to think about, to stay down and in posture through the ball because a lot of time if it’s up and out it’s because we’re out of posture.”

Speaking on the complexities of Smith’s application to return to college sport to play golf, North Carolina A&T Athletics spokesperson Brian Holloway said the school is treating Smith’s petition just like any other.

He commented: “We’re just going through the normal process we would go through with any prospective student-athlete, But this one is just a little different.”.

The issues arise because the two-time NBA champion has already spent 16 years playing professional sport.

However, NCAA rules state that professional athletes can return to play at college level if they’re not competing in the sport they previously had their profession in. This therefore could give Smith the clearance he needs to compete for the college’s golf team.

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