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Smith leaving IU as grad transfer

After graduating from Indiana earlier this month, Justin Smith is looking to play his final season at a new school

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 01 Indiana at Illinois Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Justin Smith will use his final year of eligibility elsewhere.

Indiana announced Friday that Smith has informed the coaching staff that he will enter the transfer portal and not return for his senior season. Smith’s decision comes three weeks after he declared for early entry in the 2020 NBA Draft, and two weeks after he graduated from IU’s Kelley School of Business. That means, wherever Smith lands, he’ll be eligible to play immediately.

“Justin Smith and I had a conversation recently where we discussed his future and the feedback from the NBA,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said in a statement. “In that discussion, he made the decision to graduate and transfer for his final season of eligibility. I support his decision and wish Justin and his family all the best in this next chapter. I’m proud of his growth as a person. He’s a great young man and has been a terrific role model off the court and in the classroom. He obtained his degree in three years from IU’s Kelley School of Business and we thank him for all his contributions to Indiana University and our program.”

Smith tweeted his own statement on Friday afternoon.

“After much thought, prayer and discussion with people I trust, I have decided to enter the transfer portal as a graduate transfer,” Smith said. “I want to thank Indiana University, the IU Mens Basketball Program and the awesome fans of Indiana for three amazing years in pinstripes. To my teammates, you are my brothers. I wish you nothing but the best on the bright path to complete our unfulfilled 2020 NCAA tournament dreams. The Hoosier Experience, the (Kelley) Business School degree, and the friends I’ve made in Bloomington in and outside of the basketball program will be forever treasured.”

During Smith’s three years with the program, Miller lauded the Illinois native as Indiana’s top defensive player. Smith was often assigned to the opposing team’s top scorer and finished second on last year’s team with 5.2 rebounds per game. Smith also led Indiana in minutes played (971) and steals (31) as a junior.

Yet, Smith’s offensive game was much more uneven. He averaged 10.4 points last season, but too often settled for bad shots and never was able to find a niche on that end of the court. Even so, for a program that strives to play solid defense, Smith’s departure will be felt.

With Smith gone, there will be a hefty load of minutes up for grabs, many of which could be directly dispersed between Jerome Hunter and Race Thompson.

Smith is the latest roster move Indiana has had to account for this spring. Both Smith and Damezi Anderson (Loyola Chicago) transferred out, while the program this week added five-star guard Khristian Lander, who reclassified from the 2021 recruiting cycle.

As it stands, Indiana will have two scholarship seniors next year: forward Joey Brunk and guard Al Durham.