Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Brazile, Smith first Razorbacks to make decision on future
Arkansas forward Trevon Brazile (2) is shown during a game against North Dakota State on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas freshman guard Nick Smith will enter the NBA Draft and sophomore forward Trevon Brazile is returning to the team, they announced Thursday on their Twitter accounts.
Smith’s announcement was expected considering he’s been projected as a first-round draft pick since his senior year at North Little Rock High School.
“All of us are so happy for Nick,” Razorbacks Coach Eric Musselman said in a text message to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “This is his lifelong dream to play in the NBA.
“The entire Razorback program is excited for the draft process and draft day. We want to thank Nick for his time as a Razorback.
“We want all of our players to reach their goals of playing at the next level and we can’t wait to hear Nick’s name called on draft night.”
The draft will be held June 22 at the Barclays Center, where the Brooklyn Nets play their home games.
Arkansas freshman point guard Anthony Black also is a projected first-round pick, but he hasn’t yet made an announcement regarding his future.
NBADraft.net in its latest mock draft lists Smith as being picked No. 6 by the Washington Wizards and Black No. 7 by the Portland Trail Blazers with Arkansas junior guard Ricky Council — who also hasn’t announced his plans — going 46th in the second round to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
NBC Sports projects Black to be picked No. 7 by the Wizards and Smith No. 9 by the Utah Jazz.
NBADraftRoom.com projects Black at No. 9 by the Orlando Magic and Smith at No. 19 by the Houston Rockets.
Where teams pick in the top 14 spots won’t be known until after the end of the regular season and when the lottery is held May 22.
A drawing at the lottery will determine the first four picks, and the fifth through 14th picks will be in reverse order based on regular-season records.
“This year has been an incredible journey, and I am grateful for all the love and support I have received from my hometown and all the Hog fans,” Smith wrote in a Twitter post. “I want to express my gratitude to my coach, Muss, and the entire coaching staff, who believed in my abilities and allowed me the chance to play for Arkansas.”
Smith also thanked his teammates for their support and camaraderie and wished them the best, and thanked his family members for “your unwavering support and sacrifice.”
Smith, 6-5, missed 19 games over two stretches of the season because of right knee management and averaged 12.5 points and 25.9 minutes in 17 games.
Brazile, a 6-10 transfer from Missouri, and Smith played only two games together with both healthy when the Razorbacks beat Troy 74-61 and San Jose State 99-58.
Smith missed the first five games, then on Dec. 6 in his third game back — the ninth game of the season — Brazile tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Brazile missed the rest of the season after averaging 13.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in the first eight games. He underwent surgery in late December and has been going through the rehabilitation process in recent months.
Prior to Brazile’s injury, he was moving up in mock draft projections. He had a career-high 23 points against Troy and at the Maui Invitational had 20 points and 9 rebounds when the Razorbacks beat San Diego State 78-74 in overtime and 17 points and 6 rebounds in Arkansas’ 90-87 loss to Creighton.
Last week, San Diego State beat Creighton to advance to the Final Four.
“Incredible news for the program,” Eric Musselman told WholeHogSports.com after Brazile’s announcement he is returning. “We’re all ecstatic TB is coming back.
“We feel he’s one of the most unique and most talented players in the country. We’re going to build a lot of the things we do around his skillset.
“He allows us to play so many different ways because of his versatility. Just a great day for Hog basketball.”
After Brazile was injured in the first half against UNC-Greensboro, Smith finished with a season-high 22 points as the Razorbacks rallied to win 65-58.
“If Nick doesn’t have a good scoring night, then we probably don’t win,” Musselman said after the game.
Sitting out the first six games, playing five, then missing the next 13 and playing the final 12 made for an up-and-down season for Smith.
In Smith’s first comeback, he scored 21 points to help the Razorbacks beat Oklahoma 88-78 in Tulsa.
In SEC play during his second comeback, Smith scored 26 points against Georgia, 25 against Kentucky and 24 at Alabama. He hit a game-winning jumper with 20 seconds left in Arkansas’ 76-73 victory over Auburn in the SEC Tournament.
“Nick’s one of the most talented players in the country, and he’s had some big games for us,” Musselman said before Arkansas played Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament West Region semifinals. “But he’s been in a tough situation, in and out of the lineup with injuries. It’s not easy for any player to do, let alone when a team’s on a tournament run.”
In Smith’s final game as a Razorback, he scored 11 points in Connecticut’s 88-65 victory over Arkansas.
“It was a fun year for me,” Smith told WholeHogSports.com in a locker room interview after the Connecticut game. “I love these guys. It was probably one of the most [enjoyable teams] personality-wise I’ve been on individually, starting with Coach Muss.
“I just appreciate the time these guys gave me. I just appreciate the fans, I appreciate my parents and my friends and family that stuck behind me no matter what situation it was.”
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.