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Russ Smith says he's losing sleep over NBA decision

By Matt Norlander | Staff Writer

Russ Smith was one of the most efficient players in the country this past season. (USATSI)

Two weeks ago, Russ Smith was enjoying the glow of winning a national title. Then his dad told the media that his son would be entering the NBA Draft.

Since then, life's been a bit stressful for the Louisville junior, who turned 22 on Friday. A report Monday night from Rick Bozich of WDRB reiterated that Smith is as on the fence about whether to stay or forgo his college career for a shot at the NBA..

Smith is meeting with Rick Pitino on Tuesday, according to the report, and we'll know what he decides on Wednesday when an official announcement is scheduled.

"If I were to leave, I'm leaving behind a great fan base," Smith said. "I'm leaving behind my education. I'm leaving behind some accolades I could get. I'm leaving behind my teammates. But if I stay, I'm leaving behind a year of potentially starting my career somewhere." ...

"Toughest one I've ever made," Smith said [of the decision]. "I didn't have that many colleges. When I got the University of Louisville (offer), it was a landslide. I came here. ... I've never made a decision this big in my life. I lose sleep. I've been losing sleep, especially the last week and a half. I've been trying to work out just to keep my mind off of it. It's really tough. It's not easy."

Smith is forecast as a late second-rounder by some prognosticators; others have him going a bit higher. I've yet to see anyone peg him as a first-round pick. The tough call lies in the fact that Smith had a really, really good junior season. This is a weak draft. And yet he's still second-round material. Would equaling that output next year, in a deeper draft, do anything to up Smith's stock?

If Smith leaves, he'll join teammate Gorgui Dieng -- also a junior -- in early entry. Dieng is a smart guy and imparted this advice, per Bozich's story: "I've been trying to tell him that going to the NBA is something you have to be ready by yourself. It's not like everybody saying he's ready or he's not ready. If he feels mentally that he's ready, he can leave. If not, he can do whatever he wants. Leaving college and going to the NBA, that's another level. You have to be ready for yourself. It's not somebody making you feel ready."

That's fairly profound. Dieng will be a surefire first-round pick, by the way. Smith is a great college player. He's already part of Louisville lore. The good news is, because the fan base is so endeared to him, it will be supportive no matter how he chooses.

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