Louisville junior tries to follow big brother's path to NBA
J.R. Smith has been checking into Nuggets games at the Pepsi Center scorer’s table for the better part of five years.
The Nuggets are on an extended road trip, but the Smith family from Northern New Jersey will still have representation in Denver on Thursday when Chris Smith takes the court for No. 4-seed Louisville in the NCAA Tournament.
Like his well-established brother, Chris wears No. 5 and is an athletically gifted shooting guard who can score from long range and create for himself off the dribble. He started 19 games for the Cardinals as a junior, averaging 9.1 points and 4.6 rebounds.
J.R., 25, talks to his 23-year-old brother on a daily basis, providing encouragement and motivation as Chris tries to fulfill the dream of a Smith & Smith duo in the NBA.
“I try to stay as close as I can with him,” J.R. Smith said. “Even though he’s been playing well, I’ve got to make sure he stays grounded and ready for the next step.”
With a busy NBA schedule, J.R. does his best to watch his brother’s games on TV, and he attended Louisville’s win over then-No. 12 Connecticut on Feb. 19. Chris Smith had 11 points and seven rebounds in the victory.
A week earlier, Chris scored a season-high 19 points and added seven rebounds, three assists and two steals against Providence. Impressive stuff, considering he was a walk-on for 14th-ranked Louisville (25-9) after playing two years at Manhattan College.
“He’s making his shots and doing a better job on defense than he has in the past,” J.R. Smith said. “He’s getting a lot better.”
The same could be said of big brother.
J.R. has averaged 15.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in the 11 games since watching Chris play during the All-Star break. He also has made 32-of-63 three-pointers while helping Denver go 9-2 following its Feb. 22 trade with New York and Minnesota.
Nuggets coach George Karl repeatedly has complimented J.R. Smith for his improved maturity and professionalism this season.
That’s an important step both on and off the court.
After all, big brothers always should set a good example.