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It’s official: Russ Smith is returning to Louisville for his senior season

Apr 24, 2013, 1:21 PM EDT

University of Louisville's Smith fights to get shot off under pressure from Colorado State's defense NCAA basketball game in Lexington

Louisville will be Russdiculous for one more season, as Russ Smith officially announced that he will be returning to campus to play his senior season for the Cardinals.

Smith and his father originally said after the national title game that he would be entering the NBA Draft, but in the weeks since then, the younger Smith has had a change of heart.

“If I would have left, I think I would have been shooting myself in the foot,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t think I was mature enough.”

“As much smoke as you thought I was blowing to people, I really didn’t know. I was really unsure until I woke up this morning.”

(CLICK HERE to follow along with who is turning pro and who is returning to school.)

I’m glad that Russ is back, as it’s not a secret that he’s one of my favorite players in the country to watch. That said, I’m not convinced that this is the best decision for him from a professional standpoint. I don’t think that his stock can get any higher, and the improvements that he’s going to have to make if he wants to convince NBA scouts that he’s worth a first round pick — better decision making, playing the point more, improved perimeter shooting — are precisely the kind of adjustments that will hurt him playing in Rick Pitino’s system.

But if Smith doesn’t think that he’s ready for the lifestyle of being a professional basketball player, than he made the right decision to return to school. He’ll be leaving with a degree, and frankly, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter when you leave school. If you’re an NBA player, you’re an NBA player.

The bigger story here is that Smith’s return all of a sudden makes Louisville a national title contender again. Their back court is absurdly loaded. Smith will team up with JuCo transfer and former top 50 recruit Chris Jones as well as talented freshman Terry Rozier, who could have contributed to Louisville this season had he not needed to prep a year. Kevin Ware should be returning at some point next season, while Luke Hancock and Wayne Blackshear will also return.

With Chane Behanan coming back to school as well, the most important player on Louisville for next season is going to be Montrezl Harrell. The big fella is long and explosive and aggressive, and his had stretches this season where he was dominant. But he also went through bouts of inconsistency, the typical growing pains of a sophomore. If he comes a guy that can averages 12 points and eight boards, blocking a couple of shots and spending the season as a dominant presence in the paint, Louisville will once again be a national title contender.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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