The Red Raider basketball season ended roughly two weeks ago and already, the off-season is in full swing. Tech’s trip to the Elite Eight has already begun to pay dividends as the Red Raiders signed St John’s transfer Tariq Owens, adding to an already stacked 2018 recruiting class.
The biggest question facing Red Raider fans this off-season so far, has been the fate of Zhaire Smith, who recently declared for the NBA Draft. As a true freshman, Smith became a major player for the Red Raiders, averaging 11 points per game.
His performances raised the eyes of NBA scouts and, the further the Red Raiders went in the tournament, the higher Smith’s draft stock rose. While Smith has yet to hire an agent, it’s become clear that he won’t be returning to Chris Beard’s squad in November.
So what does Zhaire Smith’s imminent departure mean for the future of Texas Tech basketball?
Losing Zhaire to the NBA after only one season is hard to swallow for most fans. We all watched the football team struggle behind an inexperienced quarterback and wonder how things could have been different if Patrick Mahomes had returned for his senior season.
In this case however, Zhaire Smith may benefit Tech more as a one and done than he would by returning next season.
From a team standpoint, while guys like Zhaire are irreplaceable, the Red Raiders return a ton of talent next season including Jarrett Culver, who was another freshman phenomenon, and Brandone Francis, who stepped up in a big way when Keenan Evans went down with a broken toe. Add in incoming talent like Deshawn Corprew and Tariq Owens, there is no doubt that Chris Beard will have the talent and leadership to make another run in the tournament next season.
Zhaire Smith’s departure as a one and done will bring Texas Tech basketball into the next level of national prominence. It takes the Red Raiders from being a middle of the road team that occasionally makes a run in the tournament, to being a major power in the NCAA. Having a one and done places Tech in a category with schools like Texas, Kentucky and Louisville and gives Beard an edge over most other Big 12 teams when it comes to recruiting. On top of that, the further Zhaire Smith goes in the NBA, the more notoriety he’ll bring to Red Raider basketball.
Zhaire Smith is a fantastic player and will definitely be missed, but he leaves a team that is stacked with talent and the notoriety that a one and done player validates this team and officially cements the Red Raiders as one of the premier basketball programs in the country.
What's your take?
Should Zhaire Smith have stayed another season?
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