"I've decided to play next season for NC State, the first team to offer me a scholarship," Smith said via text. "I owe so much to Todd Ramasar, the agent who walked me through this process; Ross McMains, the incredible coach who prepared me so well for all I've just gone through, and the Life Sports Agency team. This past month has been eye opening on so many ways. Todd, Ross, and their team helped put me on the NBA map."
Smith, the No. 22 prospect in the ESPN 100, had a strong showing at the NBA draft combine that propelled him firmly into consideration as a first-round pick, several NBA executives told ESPN. He was one of the standouts of the drills portion in the first day of the combine, and then scored 17 points in a scrimmage in the second day, before withdrawing from the remainder of the event. Still, Smith says merely being a first-round pick wasn't enough for him to stay in the draft, and he's hoping to aim higher next year.
"I have to be honest and admit money has never been at the center of my thoughts," he said. "My agent explained to me that teams as high as the late teens, through the rest of the first round, all have me ranked as a first-round talent. It's exciting to hear that. But I told him I have more work to do. I like school and my college in particular. Remember, my last two years have been so strange, thanks to the pandemic. I just want one more season to get everything right and just be a college student."
A late bloomer physically, Smith wasn't considered a major prospect coming out of Farmville (North Carolina) Central High School, despite winning three consecutive state championships. He received offers from only High Point and East Carolina before committing to NC State.
He was named to the ACC All-Rookie Team and was an all-conference honorable mention after averaging 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists for the Wolfpack, finishing as the second-leading scorer in the ACC in conference play. His 96 3-pointers led the ACC and ranked as the fourth-highest total in ACC history for a freshman.
"If things go like I expect, I won't have to go through the combine experience the same way," Smith said. "Everyone will see my games and our team all season, we are going to make sure they are seeing something special. The NBA can wait one year, I have more work to do in the ACC first."
Smith's return is a major boon to a NC State team that finished 11-21 and ranked last in the ACC last season. The Wolfpack have lost some key pieces already this offseason, including Jericole Hellems, Cam Hayes and Manny Bates. They await another big decision in leading scorer and projected second-round pick Dereon Seabron, who is currently testing the NBA draft waters. Head coach Kevin Keatts has been aggressive in the NCAA transfer portal, adding commitments from Winthrop's DJ Burns, Mississippi's Jarkel Joiner, La Salle's Jack Clark and Utah's Dusan Mahorcic.