The NCAA has declared former UCLA transfer Josh Smith eligible to play immediately for Georgetown men's basketball team, the school announced on Wednesday evening.
Perhaps the biggest stunner is that 6-foot-10, 350-pound center is also eligible for the 2014-15 season, meaning four semesters available with the Hoyas. The program requested a "Seasons of Competition" waiver for Smith, who played six games as a junior for UCLA last season before departing the Pac 12 school during the first semester.
“We are excited that the NCAA has approved the waiver for Joshua,” Head Coach John Thompson III said in a statement. “Now, he has to maintain a high level of commitment on and off the court. He will provide a significant low-post presence for this team.”
Smith has practiced with the Hoyas and worked on his conditioning since joining the program in January. He likely makes his debut in Georgetown's season opener on Nov. 8. The Hoyas face Oregon in the Armed Forces Classic at Camp Humphreys in Seoul, South Korea.
An all-conference Freshman selection in 2010-11, Smith played in 33 games and made 15 starts for UCLA while averaging 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. As a sophomore in 2011-12, he started nine times and appeared in 32 games, averaging 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Weight and conditioning issues previously derailed his on-court performance. If the big man is physically ready for the opening bell, he'll provide Thompson's offense with a scoring and skilled low post presence it hasn't had since Henry Sims' senior season in the 2011-12 campaign.
During Tuesday's media day at McDonough Arena, Thompson said he remained uncertain about the NCAA's time frame.
"We’re approaching it as if he may or may not be with us. It’s quite as simple as that,” Thompson said. “I mean, we’re going about it as something that he may be there, he may not. We have no idea when we’re going to hear anything.”
As for what Smith provides, Thompson reiterated points he previously made to CSNwashington. “A low-post presence, and that when he gets (the ball) down there, he knows what to do with it," the coach said. "He’s very good on the blocks. He’s a very good basketball player, which quite honestly I didn’t realize until he got here last year — just what a good feel for the game he had.”
Georgetown lost Otto Porter to the NBA, but returned all key members of last season's co-Big East regular season championship team including point-producing guards Markel Starks and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Senior Nate Lubick and junior Mikael Hopkins each started every game, but neither frontcourt option is a proven scorer. It's a stretch to call Smith proven, especially considering the weight concerns, but he's flashed legitimate offense skills.
Here is what I wrote in June after speaking with Thompson about the upcoming season moments after Porter's introductory press conference with the Washington Wizards.
*Thompson hopes those other pieces include former UCLA transfer Josh Smith. The 6-foot-10, 300-plus pound center is eligible to play for Georgetown starting the second semester of the upcoming season - and would do so as a senior. As it stands, Smith can play either the one semester or sit out the 2013-14 season and be eligible to play in both semesters of the 2014-15 campaign. The program has applied for a waiver, but is still waiting on a ruling from the NCAA.
Whenever Smith takes the court, he will provide a massive interior presence with scoring and passing skills. The kind Georgetown lacked last season and the kind NBA folks have taken a shine too at different stages of his career.
"I don't know why because he may be the biggest person in college basketball but I think the world is forgetting about big Josh," Thompson said. "We're going to have a low-post presence that's pretty formidable. Then you have experience with Nate. You have experience with Mikael. We're a veteran team. We'll figure it out. We've done a pretty good job of figuring it out."