PowerMizzou - Dru Smith hoping to take the hard road to the NBA
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Dru Smith hoping to take the hard road to the NBA

Dru Smith huddled up with his Miami Heat teammates awaiting tipoff. He glanced around the gym, his eyes darting around the bright lights of Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center before finally landing on the opposing lineup.

“What do y’all see over there that I see?” Heat forward Max Strus asked while Smith held his stare. “I see every one of them was drafted. Ain’t none of us were. Be dogs, be hungry. Show these people why we should’ve been drafted.”

The former Missouri guard hardly needed a reminder. He’d only shared that subtle black jersey with his new teammates for three days in the NBA Summer League. Some were college foes just a year earlier. Some spent their last season fighting for minutes.

When he daydreamed to the spin of his ceiling fan growing up, the visions featured his name being called on draft night. This part of the process wasn’t dreamt. He imagined his hands would be busy signing a multi-year contract, not clawing for a roster spot.

“As a kid, you’re dreaming, but you don’t even know what all goes into it,” Smith said. “Growing up, I knew I wanted to play basketball, and however far that was gonna go, that’s just kind of where it was going to go for me.”

But his dreams and reality share a common denominator: a pro career in the distance. Only now, his path is slightly different.

Five months earlier, Smith’s college course ended at Lucas Oil Stadium as MU lost to Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament. Five years, two schools, four seasons and that particularly solid senior season were past him. The lead guard was fresh off of averaging 14.3 points, 3.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals. He was a relentless on-ball defender, a reliable scorer, an expert in pace and a revered leader — a mold that provided an inch, could benefit a professional team somewhere.

At 23 years old, Smith wasn’t getting any younger. He’d been in contact with AMR Agency throughout the year and didn’t plan on looking back.

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Smith was a key cog in leading Mizzou back to the NCAA Tournament last season
Smith was a key cog in leading Mizzou back to the NCAA Tournament last season (Zach Bland/Mizzou Athletics)

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