Russ Smith's dad put him in tough position
April, 11, 2013
By Myron Medcalf | ESPN.com
I had doubts when I heard the first report.
Minutes after his son had won the national championship in Atlanta on Monday night, the father of Louisville star Russ Smith announced that the junior would turn pro.
Smith essentially backed his father’s statement on Tuesday when he told Sirius XM College Sports Nation radio hosts Mark Packer and Bruce Pearl that “this is the right time.”
Just one problem.
He’s in his early 20s.
And he’s charged with making the biggest professional decision of his life days after the conclusion of the 2012-13 season (non-seniors must withdraw by an April 16 deadline mandated by the NCAA to preserve their eligibility, although the NBA draft entry deadline is April 28). Wavering should be expected.
So it’s not surprising that he’s reportedly uncertain now. According to Rick Pitino, who discussed the situation on a Louisville radio show on Thursday morning, Smith did not want his father to say what he said about his draft status because he’s "confused." Pitino, who’d also previously stated that Smith would leave, now says the guard is “50/50.”
Oh boy. Here we go again.
This happens every season, it seems, and it has to stop.
Yes, the NCAA’s deadline -- one that’s clearly designed to help the kids and not coaches, right? -- is silly, especially for prospects whose squads make deep runs in the NCAA tournament. They have only days to decide after the Big Dance ends. And it’s just not right.
That’s a separate post, though. Smith and his peers can’t control the folks in Indianapolis.
But the parents, posse members, cousins, high school/AAU coaches and everyone else speaking prematurely on behalf of these young men need to cool it.
Smith barely had time to breathe before was faced with the question about his future. He’s not alone.
Talented players will always be asked to answer those queries about the next level. That’s fine.
But Smith, and others in his situation, deserves the right to control the message. And the Louisville guard couldn’t do that. As soon as his father made the announcement, it became news. News that he obviously felt pressured to confirm.
I’m not suggesting that Smith’s father meant any harm. It’s a very complicated process for everyone involved. I’m sure he wants his son to make the best decision, and turning pro -- something they clearly discussed prior to the title game -- probably appeared to be the right call for the speedy guard.
Plus, the energy and excitement surrounding the national championship victory could have been factors. In those moments, we all say things we might regret after a night’s rest.
The last thing these players need, however, is more angst as they gather information and assess their situation.
Early statements on behalf of players who aren’t sure don’t help anyone involved.
Smith’s case proves as much.