Clear favorite for Smith

The scholarship situation is thin for the next two recruiting classes at Chapel Hill, but one thing is clear: J.R. Smith would like to get his hands on one of them.

The 6-6, 190-pound swingman, who has been re-classified to the Class of 2004 and will enroll at St. Benedict's (N.J.), was the best player on a loaded Tim Thomas Playaz AAU team this past summer.

Smith was best-known as a two-sport star who was deadly from the perimeter prior to the summer. His stroke from three-point land was arguably as good as anyone's around the country. However, after he got his confidence up at the ABCD Camp in early July, Smith started taking people off the dribble and exploding to the basket.

"I really shocked people, including myself," Smith said. "I came on the team as nobody. I wasn't even ranked in the top 100 and now they have me as the 23rd player in the country. It's crazy."

The UNC staff, among many other high-major schools, noticed and the Tar Heels have him on their radar for the Class of 2004 – along with guards Daniel Gibson and Daniel Horton.

Smith had always been talking about playing both basketball and football at the next level and that hasn't really altered much. However, he baffled many when he chose to attend St. Benedict's, which doesn't even have a football team.

"I talked to Jimmy (Salmon) and my parents and they felt it would be a great opportunity to go to St. Benedict's and learn from Danny Hurley. I needed to go to prep school mainly for my academics. In the classroom, I get distracted by little things and sometimes I'm just not focused."

Smith almost went the prep school route a year ago, but he couldn't get into a few local prep schools and ended up staying at Lakewood, where he averaged 28.3 points and 6 rebounds per game last season.

"Right now I'm leaning towards hoop in college," he said. "But that could change."

Smith had previously mentioned Virginia and Clemson as his co-leaders entering the summer and both schools are still high on his list. Others involved include Maryland, N.C. State, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Villanova and Seton Hall.

"I love North Carolina," Smith added. "That's my number one choice. I'm sitting in my dad's office and all I see are Michael Jordan and Vince Carter pictures. That's part of the tradition and I always thought of myself as one of those players. I really want to be part of that environment."

"But I haven't really talked to them much lately," he added. "They send a lot of hand-written letters from Coach (Matt) Doherty. They told me they'd offer me if I go to prep school. They want to see me do a prep school year and that's one of the main reasons I'm at St. Benedict's."

There's no questioning that North Carolina is his dream school for basketball, but he has a similar situation on the gridiron.

Smith would love to play wide receiver or defensive back for the defending national champion Miami Hurricanes, although Miami has yet to show any serious interest in his football talents.

"That would be the toughest decision I'd ever have to make," Smith said of possibly having to choose between UNC basketball and Miami football.

However, if the ‘Canes did get involved, Smith admits it would be a gut-wrenching decision. Smith also has a few connections to the Miami program - redshirt freshman defensive lineman Thomas Carroll is his first cousin.

Thus far, the Tar Heels football staff hasn't recruited Smith at all. But that could change as quickly as Smith's ranking.


Related Links:
J.R. Smith transfers to prep school, eyes UNC
Big Time: News and Notes from Day 4


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