Highlights from former Razorback Nick Smith Jr.’s 33-point performance vs Trail Blazers in NBA 2K24 Summer League

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It’s been well-documented that a right knee injury held former Razorback Nick Smith Jr. from reaching his potential during his only year in an Arkansas uniform.

The former No. 2 overall prospect in the class of 2022, Smith put the basketball world on notice with a 33-point performance for the Charlotte Hornets in the NBA 2K24 Summer League on Tuesday evening.

Charlotte selected Smith with the No. 27 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft and he was paired up with his former foe and the No. 2 overall pick out of Alabama, Brandon Miller. The duo combined to score 59 points in the 97-93 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

“They looked like they had a mindset of being a little more aggressive, especially Nick,” Hornets summer league head coach Marlon Garnett told reporters. “Nick got it going. We tried to put him in situations where guys were struggling to stay in front of him. He was making some plays. It was good to see him getting rolling. I liked the pop Brandon had today. Good offensive games, but we must be better with the small details.”

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Smith’s 33 points were a game-high and he racked them up very efficiently. The North Little Rock High School product was 13-of-20 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 from three. He added four rebounds, one steal, one block and three assists, one of which came on an alley-oop to Miller in the first quarter.

The 6-foot-5 guard put on full display the offensive prowess he was lauded for coming out of high school. While he showed glimpses of his scoring capabilities at Arkansas, Smith took the basketball world by storm when he emptied his bag of tricks on Tuesday.

While it is just the summer league, Smith might’ve proved that his drop to late in the first round was a mistake by the teams that passed up on him. His high motor was on display for 28:17 and he scored from every level.

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“Obviously, I made a couple more shots, but I had couple good looks,” Smith told reporters. “Kai [Jones] and the other bigs were setting good screens for me. I had to use my creativity to get my shot up at the end. I just got it going and I wanted to use that to the best of my ability. I’m just getting more comfortable being out there.”

Along with the alley-oop to Miller, Smith had another play that went viral on social media. With the clock ticking down late in the fourth quarter and Charlotte trailing by three, Smith drove to the right wing, stepped back with a slight hesitation and then put an elite spin move on Kris Murray — the No. 23 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft — to find a crease and sink a floater to make it a 1-point game.

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Through three games in the NBA 2K24 Summer League, Smith is averaging 16.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists for Charlotte.

One game doesn’t define the trajectory of Smith’s future, but it has to give Hornets fans — and really Arkansas fans as well — hope that the former top recruit is back to the potential that people thought he had coming out of high school.

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