Russ is one 'very motivated' Pelican

Russ Smith

Former University of Louisville All-American Russ Smith was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers as the No. 47 pick in the NBA Draft and then traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. Smith met with the local media early Friday morning to discuss his draft night and his future.

Former University of Louisville All-American Russ Smith has always had to overcome a lot of challenges in his basketball career.

Just a two-star out of high school, Smith nearly left U of L after his freshman season only to later become a fan favorite.

Smith, tagged with the nickname Russdiculous by U of L coach Rick Pitino, helped the Cardinals to a national title two years ago, a pair of Final Fours, a Big East and AAC championship and a berth into the Sweet 16 this season.

The 6-foot-1, 160-pound Smith didn't turn pro after his junior season because he didn't get great feedback from the scout and after an All-American senior season was still getting only second-round grades from NBA scouts.

"I don't know what else I have to do to prove myself," Smith said early Friday morning.

The former U of L great will get the best chance to prove himself now - in the NBA - after being selected in the second round. He was picked at No. 47 by the Philadelphia 76ers and then traded to the New Orleans Pelicans.

"I don't understand what I have to do to gain respect," Smith told local media assembled afte the draft. "Now, I am with a successful organization and I am going to do it.

Smith was at the U of L practice facility during the draft, watching the first eight picks and then spending time in his car listening to music before chatting with some friends and shooting some hoop. His mother, girlfriend and several other close friends were with him.

After not seeing his name taken in the top 37 or 38 picks, Smith said he "feared the worst." He was thinking about free agency when he got a text that said he had been picked by the 76ers.

"I didn't know what was going on," he said. "I didn't work out for them, but then my (agent) told me it was New Orleans. I didn't work out with them either, but I'm happy to be with a great organization."

Smith said while he didn't work out with Pelicans that he did have a "great interview with them in Chicago." He said he never heard from them again until after the draft.

"It was great, I felt like I was talking to my dad or coach (Pitino)," Smith said. "I felt really good and honestly I had kind of forgotten about them because I didn't hear anything."

Smith was a little emotional when he met with the media after the draft saying any notion from teams that he can't play at that level was "ludicrous" and "crazy."

He spoke several times of the "elephant in the room," during the draft workouts when he was never matched up against any of the elite guards who were taken in the first round.

"What else do you want me to prove?" Smith said. "I don't know what I have to do to gain respect. You can't make everybody happy, but I'm going to make everybody happy one day."

Smith said he spoke with New Orleans general manager Dell Demps before he met with the media and told him he was "ready to get to work."

Demps told the New Orleans media late Thursday night that Smith was a "champion."

"We're excited to bring him into the program," he said. "He's a dynamic player, a two-way player and that's what we're excited about."

While he's expected in New Orleans as early as later today to meet the media, Smith will play his first game in the Las Vegas Summer League against the NBA D-League All-Star team on July 11 at 10:30 p.m. EDT at UNLV's Thomas & Mack.

"I'm ready to go," Smith said, smiling when he was told the Pelicans have an exhibition game scheduled for the KFC Yum! Center against the Miami Heat on Oct. 4.

Smith finished his career as the only Louisville player in history with at least 1,800 career points, 350 assists and 250 steals. He is the Cardinals' all-time leader in steals with 257, fifth in career scoring at Louisville with 1,908 points, second in career free throws with 488, and is tied for eighth in career three-pointers with 179. As a senior, Smith averaged 18.2 points, 4.6 assists, 2.0 steals and shot 46.8 percent from the field.

As a senior, Smith also was a consensus All-American.

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