The Washington Post

NCAA clears Josh Smith to play at start of season for Georgetown

Josh Smith is eligible to play immediately for Georgetown. He transferred last season from UCLA. (Harry How/Getty Images)

The NCAA has cleared Josh Smith to play for Georgetown at the start of the upcoming basketball season, meaning the 6-foot-10, 350-pound transfer from UCLA will be available for the Hoyas’ Nov. 8 opener against Oregon in Seoul.

The decision represents a significant boost for Georgetown, which faces what Coach John Thompson III has called the most difficult nonconference schedule since he arrived at the school. All but one of those tough games will be contested in the fall semester, including the season opener against Pacific-12 power Oregon and a Dec. 21 game against Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.

Under NCAA rules, Division I players who transfer typically must sit out a full season before they’re allowed to compete. But Smith’s case was a bit unusual because he didn’t play a full fall semester for UCLA last year, quitting the team just six games into the season.

Moreover, he enrolled at Georgetown for the spring 2013 semester. That means he will have been on campus, taking classes and practicing with the Hoyas (though not allowed to compete) for 11 months when the upcoming basketball season starts.

The decision-making behind NCAA eligibility-waivers is often contradictory and little understood, with the organization granting some while denying others.

Reached for comment Wednesday evening, an NCAA spokesman said the decision regarding Smith was made after a thorough review by staff and “based on the totality of circumstances and well-being of the student-athlete,” explaining that further details couldn’t be provided because of student-athlete privacy issues.

News of Smith’s clearance — technically, the NCAA’s granting of a waiver request — was released by Georgetown Wednesday evening.

Because the NCAA, in effect, erased his limited participation for the Bruins as a junior, granting him a Seasons of Competition waiver, Smith will have two seasons of eligibility remaining at Georgetown.

“We are excited that the NCAA has approved the waiver for Joshua,” Thompson said in a statement. “Now he has to maintain a high level of commitment on and off the court. He will provide a significant low-post presence for this team.”

Smith should help fill the vacancy left by Otto Porter Jr., the unanimous selection as Big East player of the year.

A McDonald’s all-American, Smith had a strong freshman debut for UCLA, starting 15 of 33 games and averaging 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds.

But his production and playing time diminished as a sophomore. And by his junior year, with his lack of conditioning an issue, he was reduced to a bit player.

Improving Smith’s fitness and stamina has been a priority since he arrived on the Hilltop.

Liz Clarke currently covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. She has also covered seven Olympic Games, two World Cups and written extensively about college sports, tennis and auto racing.



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