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Utah guard Deivon Smith’s eligibility waiver denied by NCAA

The school is going through appeals process to try and get the two-time transfer eligible after he transferred to the Runnin’ Utes program from Georgia Tech

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Branden Carlson and Deivon Smith practice with the Utah Runnin’ Utes at the Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Basketball Facility in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023.

Branden Carlson and Deivon Smith practice with the Utah Runnin’ Utes at the Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Basketball Facility in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

A key transfer for the University of Utah men’s basketball team will have to continue to wait to make his Runnin’ Utes debut.

Deivon Smith’s eligibility waiver was denied by the NCAA, a university spokesman confirmed to the Deseret News on Monday night.

The news was first reported by ESPN 700’s Porter Larsen, as Runnin’ Utes head coach Craig Smith shared details during his appearance on the coaches show with host Bill Riley.

Deivon Smith is a two-time transfer who played his freshman season at Mississippi State before playing the past two seasons for Georgia Tech. 

As a non-graduate transfer, Deivon Smith must receive a waiver to play this season — otherwise, he’ll be forced to use a redshirt year.

During the coaches show on ESPN 700, Utah’s head coach said the school is currently going through the appeals process — there is no timetable for when a decision could be made, per the school spokesman.

“There’s another step to this thing that our compliance people are working diligently at. So he’s in the appeals process and hoping for a positive outcome,” Craig Smith told Riley.

The Utah coach praised how his point guard has handled the process.

“I’ll give Deivon a ton of credit. He’s been so professional about everything and handled it like a man, handled it like a real pro,” Craig Smith said during the coaches show. “It’s not over yet, there’s no finality yet. He’s worked really, really hard and continues to stay ready should the appeals committee rule in his favor.”

The 6-foot point guard from Decatur, Georgia, has two years of eligibility remaining — one of those years is courtesy of the free year of eligibility the NCAA granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic — and still has a redshirt season available.

Deivon Smith’s second year at Georgia Tech was his best college season — last year, he started 13 games and played in 23 for the Yellow Jackets while averaging 7.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

He also had a 2.8 assists/turnover ratio.

Without Deivon Smith available so far this season, the Utes have relied on returning starter Rollie Worster and transfer Hunter Erickson to handle the majority of point guard duties.

Worster is averaging 5.3 assists through the team’s first seven games, while Erickson is averaging 3.7 assists.

Craig Smith and the guard’s Utah teammates have noted the athleticism they see out of Deivon Smith on the practice court.

“He definitely brings a different element to our team, which you’ll see, with his speed and athleticism,” the coach said back in September, ahead of the team’s first day of preseason training camp.

Added Utes guard Gabe Madsen: “He’s a special player. He’s a freak athlete obviously and really crafty with the ball in his hands. He’s fun to play with and distributes the ball really well.”

At the time, Craig Smith also talked about the residual positives that could come for Deivon Smith if he were forced to use a redshirt season.

“Like I told him in the recruiting process, you hope for the best, expect the worst. Your mindset’s got to be a certain way. But just know from our standpoint, obviously we really want you to get a waiver, but at the same time, if you don’t get the waiver, we want you. We can develop you, we can help you,” the coach said. 

“The redshirt thing isn’t a bad thing. It’s almost like not even talked about anymore, but it’s a real thing and I’ve seen the positive benefits of so many players over the years that I’ve coached.”