The Smith Jr. Eligibility Controversy is Complicated

Local Sports

How does the best high school basketball player in the state of Arkansas and one of the top players in the nation end up ineligible for his senior year in the state?

If you are the Arkansas Activities Association, charged with enforcing the rules governing high school sports in the state, the decision is fairly simple if the school district Nick Smith Jr. transferred into this year investigates and determines that one of two alleged transfer violations did indeed occur.

But was the investigation flawed? The alleged violation in question involved a personal coach that Smith had used for several years. That coach had been a volunteer with North Little Rock High but not at the time Smith transferred. Therefore, Smith’s supporters argue, that violation was not a violation at all.

An appeal to the AAA has already been made and turned down in a 6-1 vote. But if the North Little Rock school district signs a “Changing Schools Athletics Participation” form indicating that there was no violation, perhaps the decision will be overturned. Currently there is no indication that the school district will sign that form. As as result of that, a protest is reportedly set for 10AM Wednesday outside the school district’s office.

Smith Jr. is getting help in high places. State senator Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) has asked the AAA to explain its decision in a Thursday meeting. Smith Jr. will also appear at that meeting to explain his position on the transfer.

“I know this happens to kids in all schools across the state of Arkansas,” Irvin told the Arkansas Times. “I’d like to know more about this process and how it’s investigated, how it’s enforced and how it’s determined. It breaks my heart to hear that any student is denied an opportunity to do something they love, because they only have once chance at high school.”

Some Razorback fans are worried that Smith Jr., a possible one and done at Arkansas, might decide to bypass college and jump straight to the NBA G league. Sources close to the situation say if he can’t get any relief from the AAA ruling, Smith Jr. would likely choose to play his most of senior season out of state. But clearly this is not what he or his parents want.

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