NC States Dennis Smith Jr. officially enters 2017 NBA Draft

Fayetteville native exits Wolfpack ahead of Kevin Keatts era, will likely be a top-10 draft pick in June

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
North Carolina State Wolfpack guard Dennis Smith Jr. (4) leaps for a layup against Wake Forest Demon Deacons forward John Collins (20) in the second half of the college basketball game at PNC Arena in Raleigh

RALEIGH — When Dennis Smith Jr. committed to NC State last year, the thought process was he would likely be in Raleigh for one season. On Tuesday morning, Smith made that decision official as he entered the 2017 NBA Draft on ESPN’s SportsCenter broadcast.”I would like to announce my decision to declare for the 2017 NBA Draft,” Smith said. “I believed I had a good chance (to turn pro) when I entered college. It was definitely an attainable dream for me and I knew I would chase it with all of my might.”It meant a lot for me (to play at NC State). I’ve been a State fan my entire life, as well as my family, so it was definitely a dream come true to play in the red and white. I have the utmost respect for everybody I was there with. I’m thankful for the opportunity.”While the Wolfpack as a whole failed to meet expectations, Smith Jr. was far from a letdown. The Fayetteville native won ACC Freshman of the Year while averaging 18.1 points (sixth in ACC), 6.2 assists (first in ACC) and 1.94 steals (second in ACC) on the season.Smith also set records by scoring 30 points in a game four separate times and two triple-doubles. The first statistic had never been accomplished by a freshman in the ACC. The second had never been accomplished in the history of the ACC — by any player, regardless of class.Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton, who faced Smith Jr. just once this season, gave a glowing response when asked about his overall ability.”I just think that he is virtually unstoppable,” Hamilton said. “The reality is that he doesn’t really have a weakness. He shoots threes. He’s strong. He’s quick. He’s athletic. He creates for his teammates. He has a great basketball IQ.”He’s one of those guys that’s so special that they only come along every decade or so. There’s no doubt that he’s one of the more natural basketball players to come along in the ACC in many, many years.”The former Wolfpack point guard also (not so subtly) rolled out his new merchandise with some sharp branding on a hat and t-shirt. It featured a silhouette of a dunk from PNC Arena earlier this season.I knew I recognized that dunk in @Dennis4Smith's logo. pic.twitter.com/weaTxtRRSu— Cory Smith (@RCorySmith) March 28, 2017
At this point, Smith Jr. is ranked anywhere from the top five by ESPN’s Chad Ford to No. 9 overall by SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell. This is all based on past history, of course, with the NBA Draft Combine set to start on May 9 in Chicago, which will help sort where the top prospects will land.Smith has the look of a future superstar at the next level who simply passed through Raleigh on his way to the NBA. But with the Fayetteville and Raleigh ties, DSJ will be a fan favorite for N.C. basketball fans for years to come.