This week has been a rollercoaster and not the fun kind for North Little Rock senior basketball player Nick Smith Jr. and his family.
After some extensive back and forth, and with the national media outlets interested along with catching the attention of NBA players, Smith was ruled eligible to play this season after the North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts worked out the paperwork that allowed Smith to transfer from Sylvan Hills to North Little Rock for his senior season.
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The two school districts issued a joint statement that said, in part, that the Arkansas Activities Association was “not prepared to resolve this issue” but, “there was no fault of the student-athlete or his family.”
The statement was mostly a word salad that deflected blame on the AAA when it was the respective districts at fault for allowing Smith and his family to twist in the wind for a few agonizing days
The family sold their home in the county last spring and moved to North Little Rock this past summer and with school choice in play, along with it being a bona fide move, there were no questions that easily appeared Smith should be eligible.
Indeed, Corey Washington, Smith’s teammate at Sylvan Hills, also transferred to North Little Rock for his senior season as did Hot Springs Lakeside junior guard Tyler Frederick, and both are eligible this year, their coach, Johnny Rice, said on Wednesday.
“Right won today,” Rice said. “So excited for Nick and his family.”
Smith is a five-star prospect, who has committed to the University of Arkansas and is considered one of the best high school players in the country. A 6-foot-5 guard, he dominated last season at Sylvan Hills and took the Bears to the 5A semifinals where they lost to Maumelle.
On Twitter, Smith thanked supporters after a #FreeNickSmith hashtag campaign started earlier this week.
Basketball runs in the family as his dad, Nick Smith Sr., played Division I at Jacksonville State. The younger Smith is a high-profile candidate for this season’s McDonald’s All-American game as is North Little Rock teammate Kel’el Ware, who has committed to play at Oregon next year, and is also a five-star prospect.
North Little Rock, the defending 6A state champ, is ranked nationally in several preseason polls and is the only public high school in the country with two five-star prospects on the roster.
The season will start Nov. 13 with an exhibition game on the road at Bentonville and the home opener will be the annual Hooping 4 Hoodies tournament on Nov. 20.