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June 27, 2014

Smith happy, motivated with NBA pick

Louisville All-American guard Russ Smith sat down with local reporters just after midnight Thursday night and said he was happy. Well, kind of.

Smith was truly happy to be drafted. And he was truly happy to be drafted by Philadelphia and traded to a New Orleans team he felt like he clicked with during an interview in the pre-Draft process.

Smith was also happy the pre-Draft process was over and now he could get back to playing basketball.

Beyond that? Russ wasn't happy. He was motivated.

The Russ Smith that sat with reporters late Thursday night after getting drafted No. 47 overall was an older version of the Russ Smith that introduced himself to Louisville fans in a big way his sophomore season.

During that summer, he'd heard all the transfer rumors. He was told by fans (and maybe even some close to him) that he should probably transfer to a lower level. He was told he was too small, too frail to make it in the Big East, the best college basketball league ever created.

Smith returned to Louisville, led the Cardinals in scoring for three seasons and finished his career as an All-American and a national champion.

During the last two months since his final game as a Louisville Cardinal, Smith has been told he's not big enough, not strong enough and could be too frail to make it in the NBA. He showed up to dozens of workouts, only to find out that the other top point guard prospects he was supposed to be working out with had cancelled. He felt like teams dismissed him based on his height.

And then Thursday night, Smith watched as players he had played against (and felt like he bested), were drafted dozens of spots ahead of him. Louisiana Lafayette's Elfrid Payton, UConn's Shabazz Napier, Missouri's Jordan Clarkson and others were taken ahead of him.

"If they are going to tell me that someone else is better than Russ Smith, I'm not going to accept that," Smith said, slipping into third person for a bit.

Smith explained that he felt no one addressed the elephant in the room - his height and weight. He said he believes he's every bit the player many of the other draft picks were, but his height and weight held him back.

According to ESPN, Russ Smith is the lightest player ever to be drafted since stats began to be kept at the NBA Combine in 2000. That's 14 drafts, 60 picks per draft.

"They look at someone who is 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds," Smith said. "...They want 6-3. I can't give them that."

What he can give them is a motivated All-American. Smith said he gave scouts everything they asked of him during workouts.

"You want me to shoot 60-70 percent in my workout? I shot 60-70 percent in my workout," Smith said. "You want me to pass? I led the league in assists per minute."

Smith said he was happy to land in New Orleans. New Orleans should be happy they landed Russ Smith.


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