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Former NBA guard JR Smith makes his golf debut with the North Carolina A&T team

Burlington, North Carolina – JR Smith Can’t help feeling anxious.

Of course, he played in the NBA for 16 years, earned millions, and won two world championships in the crowded arena with the highest level of sports in the world. But he’s never been in this situation like Monday: As a 36-year-old freshman played his first college golf tournament for North Carolina A&T at the Phoenix Invitational in Elon, he lined up to start. ball.

“I’m very nervous, I’m very nervous,” Smith said. He shot a 12-under 83 in the first round and then a 78-over 7 in the second round. “I really don’t know what will happen.”

Considering that it represents a huge change in Smith, this is easy to understand. Just a year ago, to this day, in the on-court celebration with LeBron James, he still participated in the game shirtlessly. Los Angeles Lakers Just ended the NBA championship in the Florida pandemic bubble.

Smith was subsequently attracted by the Greensboro School because he was interested in attending a historic black college or university, after the NBA and its players supported the HBCU tradition and culture in this year’s Atlanta All-Star Game.

On Monday, Smith’s pride came from representing HBCU for the first time as an Aggies golfer in a two-day event held at Alamance Country Club.

“We only account for a small part of the country, let alone the budget system,” Smith said with a smile. “Because I see other people have trucks and all other things. But it’s great. It means they are great. The recognition of the school is great because they and my classmates deserve it.

“This is what I am most excited about: to be able to return to campus, my teammates held their heads high, winning the game is what we expect.”

For Smith, this is a college experience that has been delayed for nearly 20 years. He originally planned to North Carolina In 2004, he jumped from the reserve team to the NBA and became a first-round draft pick.

“I am very satisfied with him,” said Aggies coach Richard Watkins. “He made some mistakes and did things that you would do if you were not used to the game. Just going out and playing recreational golf with your friends is very different from the game.

“The first 18-year-old was just to wet his feet. Then he gave in. I was very satisfied with his performance in the second 18-year-old because education was not cheap. I think he learned some lessons today.”

Wearing a blue A&T hoodie and white pants, Smith attracted 15 to 30 curious onlookers to follow his mini gallery around the stadium. Eli Ehrbar must not miss the opportunity to participate.

The 21-year-old is a native of Cleveland, where Smith helped James lead Cavaliers To the 2016 World Championship. The Elon senior said that Smith has qualified for his first college championship so close, which feels a bit lucky.

“When I saw him qualify, I was like,’I have to come,'” said Elbar, who was wearing a Burgundy Knights hoodie. “I think this is how my friends and I feel. We are like, this is a world-class athlete, a world champion NBA player. Especially from Cleveland, it’s just a bit different.”

Smith looked relaxed enough through countless holes. When a tee shot hit a tree and landed on the fairway, Smith quickly quipped that he called it a bank shot. When Temple golfer Joey Morganti drove his cart through bystanders in the cart path, he made a playful “beep.”

When an excited 2-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever named “Lucky” started barking from the front yard of a nearby home in one of Smith’s shots, Smith stopped and shouted across the green: “You call what name?”

Smith said he wanted to be another participant in the tournament, although he understood the extra attention that came with his debut.

“The most important thing is that it is only able to participate in the competition as one of them, just another name, and get my [butt] Was kicked,” Smith said. “It’s actually a very humble feeling. Once again, I am ready to go to that area for research. I have a lot of fun, but I don’t like losing. “

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