For the past two years, Rick Pitino has had two players that could have started their pro career and wound up returning to school. Russ Smith wasn’t regarded as a top pick, but had he decided to enter the draft last year, there is a good chance he would have been selected. Montrezl Harrell was projected to be taken with one of the first 20 picks in this year’s draft, but surprisingly Harrell decided to stay in school for at least one more year.
Adam Himmelsbach of the Courier-Journal recently spoke with an NBA scout who discussed Russ draft prospectus for this year and Harrell’s decision to return.
Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell (returning to school)
That was a good move. That was a great move. He’s got the energy. He’s got a good motor. He’s got to work on some skill development, just a little bit. He’s kind of undersized, so he’s got to get some more skill development.
I think that was a great move. He was a first-rounder, but I think he’s gonna go up.
U of L’s Russ Smith (graduating senior)
He should have a roster spot on somebody’s team because No. 1 he was the best-conditioned kid I’ve seen in a long time. He never gets tired and plays his butt off on defense. And you know what? You can’t stop Russ. He gets buckets in any kind of way.
You can’t stop him, man. You just can’t. And he’s tough, aggressive and he’s fearless. I think he has a spot in the NBA. He would be an energy guy off the bench. But I like him, I really do. He plays hard with passion.
We’re discussing Russ a lot. We’re gonna bring him in. I think he has the ability to be a third-string point guard, possibly a No. 2 in the future, but definitely a third. And his handle is good enough, as long as he doesn’t start doing that showtime stuff.
I certainly don’t’ think Harrell’s decision to return was a mistake, however I don’t think it would have been a bad decision to turn pro. The sky is the limit for Harrell. I believe regardless if he’s in school still or in NBA, he’s only going to keep getting better. He likely would have been a top 20 pick this year, but now he has a chance to be top 10 pick in 2015.
The more I watch the NBA, the more convinced I am that Russ Smith will have a long lasting career. He likely won’t be a first round pick or an All Star at the next level, but he is certainly worthy of a roster spot. If he’s drafted by a solid team that needs an energy guy off of the bench, he could have an instant impact.