In his one season at FIU, 6-2 guard Malik Smith played an important role on a team that won 18 games and lost to Western Kentucky by two points in the Sun Belt tournament in Richard Pitino’s first season at the helm.
The turnaround ultimately led to Pitino being hired at Minnesota, and ultimately issues in the program prior to Pitino’s arrival resulted in FIU being hit with a one-year postseason ban for low APR scores. Smith made the decision to transfer, rejoining his head coach in the Big Ten with the hope that he’d be eligible to play in 2013-14.
On Wednesday it was announced that the NCAA has granted Smith’s request for an immediate eligibility waiver, giving the Golden Gophers a guard who averaged 14.1 points per game as a junior.
“We are certainly excited that the NCAA has approved the waiver for Malik,” Pitino said in the release announcing the NCAA’s decision. “He is a great addition to the roster given his skills and his invaluable knowledge of how we run our program.”
Smith joins a backcourt that has experienced returnees, as Maverick Ahanmisi, Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins were all rotation players for a team that won 21 games last season. Andre Hollins was Minnesota’s best perimeter shooter last season, as he connected on 81 of his 194 attempts (41.8%), and the addition of Smith gives the Gophers another capable option in this department.
Smith shot 36.2% from deep (96 made three-pointers), and with the players he’s joining it’s realistic to think that he’ll be a more efficient offensive player in 2013-14 (offensive rating of 101.9 last season, per kenpom.com). And as Pitino noted in the release, Smith’s familiarity with the uptempo system that Minnesota hopes to employ should help with that process.
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.