Illinois v Arkansas
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Former No. 1 overall prospect Nick Smith announced Thursday that he is declaring for the upcoming NBA Draft after an up-and-down freshman season at Arkansas. Smith missed nearly two months due to a knee injury but opted to return to the Razorbacks in February instead of shutting down his season to focus on preparing the draft.

The move showcased Smith's competitive desire after he ranked as the top player in the 2022 recruiting class, according to 247Sports. But Smith's return brought some mixed results; he struggled to find an offensive rhythm after rejoining the team so late in the season. Smith ended the season averaging 12.5 points on 37.6% shooting and 33.8% from beyond the arc.

Though his small collegiate sample size didn't produce particularly efficient results, Smith offered glimpses of his immense talent while suiting up for a Razorbacks team that reached the Sweet 16. Smith surpassed 20 points on five occasions and made more than one 3-pointer in seven different contests. 

Smith is a true combo guard at 6-foot-5 and will be just 19 during his rookie season in the NBA. Though his lone college season did not go according to plan, Smith remains one of the most-talented players in the draft class.

Nick Smith's NBA Draft projection

As a high school prospect, Smith stood out as a three-level scorer and projected as a high-level defender. His defensive acumen appeared to be a work in progress with the Razorbacks, and he struggled to cement an offensive identity on a team that gelled without him while he was away rehabilitating his knee. Ultimately, there were enough flashes of Smith's potential in his college action to justify the accolades he received as a prospect. So long as everything checks out from a health standpoint, he should hear his name called early in the draft.

Smith ranks seventh in the 2023 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings from CBS Sports. He landed at No. 4 in a recent mock draft from Kyle Boone and landed at No. 7 in Gary Parrish's most recent mock draft.

"Long-term, he's still a top-five talent in the class with superstar potential," Boone wrote.

Impact on Arkansas

Smith was expected to be a one-and-done player for the Razorbacks, and the program is prepared to handle his departure. In just four years on the job, coach Eric Musselman has cemented a reputation as one of the best in the business at overhauling a roster. With top-30 point guard prospect Layden Blocker entering, the Razorbacks will reload in their back court and be just fine. 

It was disappointing that Smith's one season didn't pan out quite like he and the program may have envisioned.  But between the role played by Smith and fellow freshmen Anthony Black and and Jordan Walsh, Arkansas proved itself to be a good destination for highly touted prospects during the 2022-23 season.