Texas Tech freshman Zhaire Smith to remain in NBA draft

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On the heels of a freshman season in which he established himself as one of the Big 12’s best newcomers and defenders, Texas Tech wing Zhaire Smith entered the 2018 NBA Draft without an agent in order to evaluate his professional prospects.

Smith’s decided to go “all-in,” with it being reported Tuesday night that he has decided to hire an agent and forego his final three seasons of eligibility. News of Smith’s decision was first reported by Michael Scotto of The Athletic, with Smith confirming the news shortly thereafter.

Smith, whose stock rose throughout the latter stages of the season as Texas Tech made its run to the Elite Eight, is projected by scouts to be a player who could land in the back end of the draft lottery because of his abilities as a defender, athleticism and upside.

Starting 21 of the 37 games in which he played, the 6-foot-5 Smith averaged 11.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in 28.4 minutes per game, shooting 55.6 percent from the field and 71.7 percent from the foul line. During an eight-game stretch that began in early February Smith averaged 15.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, shooting 61.0 percent from the field and 74.5 percent from the foul line.

Not only was Smith named to the Big 12’s All-Newcomer Team, but he was also an honorable mention all-conference selection and a member of the league’s All-Defensive Team.

It goes without saying that this is a tough personnel loss for Chris Beard and the Red Raiders to absorb, especially with leading scorer Keenan Evans, guard Niem Stevenson and forward Zach Smith both out of eligibility. With Zhaire Smith now moving on, returnees such as Jarrett Culver and Brandone Francis and grad transfer Tariq Owens will need to do even more as Texas Tech looks to build on its 27-win 2017-18 season.