ESPN tabs Arkansas Razorbacks signee Nick Smith Jr. as top college prospect in 2023 NBA Draft
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ESPN tabs Arkansas signee as top college prospect in 2023 NBA Draft

Nick Smith Jr. is a five-star recruit out of North Little Rock High School.
Nick Smith Jr. is a five-star recruit out of North Little Rock High School. (Nick Wenger)

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He won’t suit up for the Razorbacks until next season, but Nick Smith Jr. is already receiving quite a bit of hype.

In ESPN’s first NBA mock draft for 2023, Smith - the crown jewel of Arkansas’ 2022 signing class, which is No. 4 nationally on Rivals - is projected to go No. 3 overall and was tabbed the top incoming college freshman.

Listed as a point guard/shooting guard, Smith is the pick for the Orlando Magic by draft expert Jonathan Givony, who used ESPN projections to determine the draft order. He is slotted behind only international prospect Victor Wembanyama from France and G League prospect Scoot Henderson, a five-star recruit who skipped college.

The Razorbacks haven’t had a player selected that high since George Kok was the second pick in 1948, a year before the BAA was rebranded as the NBA. Their highest pick in the modern era was eventual Hall of Famer Sidney Moncrief, who went fifth overall to the Bucks in 1978.

Smith soared up the recruiting rankings and draft boards with a breakout performance on the Nike EYBL circuit last summer and is currently the No. 16 overall player in the Class of 2022 and a five-star prospect on Rivals. ESPN recently tabbed him at No. 6 in its rankings.

With no obvious choice, Givony and Mike Schmitz went with Smith as the top NBA prospect among incoming freshmen because he “offers a tantalizing combination of size, length, fluidity, shot-making, playmaking and competitiveness defensively, giving him an ideal package for a modern NBA guard prospect.”

Coming off a junior season in which he averaged 25 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists and earned numerous Player of the Year accolades in the state, Smith transferred from Sylvan Hills to North Little Rock for his final year of high school ball.

Although he missed the Charging Wildcats’ last game with a turf toe injury, Smith has been sensational while helping them to a 15-3 record as a senior. He’s averaging 24.5 points, 6 rebounds and 6.3 assists while playing alongside fellow five-star prospect and Oregon signee Kel’el Ware.

Smith, who is one of 12 players on MaxPreps’ watch list for National Player of the Year, was particularly dominant while leading North Little Rock to the King Cotton Classic title last month. He took home MVP honors after averaging 28 points, 6.3 assists and 5.6 rebounds at the event.

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