N.C. State got a new addition to its bench on Saturday in freshman Dennis Smith Jr. But it might be a little longer before the star point guard actually gets onto the court.
Smith graduated early from Trinity Christian in Fayetteville in December and has enrolled at N.C. State for the second semester. The 6-2, 185-pound point guard was on the bench for Saturday’s game at Virginia Tech in black sweat pants and a black N.C. State sweatshirt.
The prized five-star point guard, rated as the No. 4 player in his class by ESPN, decided to come to college early to help rehabilitate from a knee injury. Smith tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Aug. 2 while playing with his AAU team. He had surgery five days after he suffered the injury.
The original diagnosis was Smith would be sidelined for six to nine months with the injury. He is eligible to play for N.C. State this season but his health will dictate his playing status.
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If Smith does play, he will have three full seasons and a semester of eligibility remaining. If he doesn’t play, it would count as a redshirt season and he would have four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Smith is considered a “one-and-done” talent and has been compared to scoring point guards John Wall and Allen Iverson but under NBA rules, Smith would not be eligible to enter the draft until 2017.
Smith is the highest-rated player to sign with the Wolfpack and coach Mark Gottfried, according to recruiting rankings that go back to 1998. N.C. State beat out Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and several other programs for the talented point guard’s services.
On Monday, at the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational at Broughton High, Smith talked about coming to N.C. State.
“It’s a dream come true to for me, having grown up an N.C. State fan,” Smith said. “For the way they recruited me, I was happy to show loyalty and commit. I’m excited to be a part of the program.”
Smith said he has been running a mile every other day. His workouts include jumping and lateral movements, but planting on his knees is a careful next step at this point.
“I think I can be back to full speed by February,” he said. “Once I’m cleared I can start playing pickup games.”
Correspondent Tom Shanahan contributed to this story
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio