ATLANTA — Adam Smith started his classes for the new school year on Monday.
But he was not on the campus of Virginia Tech, where he had graduated from three months earlier. He now attends one of Virginia Tech’s ACC rivals — Georgia Tech. The former Hokies off-guard will play for the Yellow Jackets men’s basketball team as a graduate student this season.
“A perfect opportunity, ” said Smith, who is from suburban Atlanta.
He led the Hokies in scoring as a fourth-year junior last season, averaging 13.4 points for coach Buzz Williams’ squad. But Virginia Tech announced in late March that he had decided to transfer. Smith picked Georgia Tech the following month.
Smith said Monday that he left Virginia Tech for academic, not basketball, reasons.
Smith, who was a multimedia journalism major, said he could have remained at Virginia Tech for his final season of basketball eligibility. But he was not interested in pursuing a second bachelor’s degree from the school, nor was he intrigued by any of the master’s degree programs at Virginia Tech.
“I felt like a master’s would be more beneficial to me than a dual degree would be in the long run, so I started looking at [graduate] programs, ” Smith said. “I worked in a lot of video production with my undergraduate [studies] at Virginia Tech, and I felt like to do what I needed to do in the future to reach some of my career goals, I would have to get more of an audio, musical side to my degree. … Virginia Tech did not offer that.
“I talked to my parents about it. They were fans of Virginia Tech, … but they supported me in my decision to look elsewhere for other graduate programs. I talked to Coach Buzz about it. … He worked with me in the process.”
Smith is pursuing a master’s degree in music technology at Georgia Tech.
“They had exactly what I was looking for, ” Smith said. “I’d like to own or be a manager of a multimedia facility — maybe a TV station, radio station. I had the video production side … at Virginia Tech. … But I wasn’t really equipped with the whole sound aspect of it. … I need the sound aspect or the music technology aspect to build a complete package.”
This is Smith’s third college stop.
After playing for UNC Wilmington as a freshman, Smith transferred to Virginia Tech and sat out the 2012-13 season under the NCAA’s transfer rules. Smith averaged 11 points for the Hokies in an injury-plagued 2013-14 season.
Smith started 21 games for the last-place Hokies last season, averaging 29.9 minutes and sinking a team-high 81 3-pointers. It was Williams’ first season at the helm of the Hokies.
“I learned a lot from Buzz, ” Smith said. “I have the utmost respect for him.”
In an overtime win over Pittsburgh, Smith made a 3-pointer with less than a second left to force overtime and made the winning 3-pointer with 3.6 seconds to go in overtime. He finished with 26 points, one of three times he scored more than 20 points against an ACC foe last season.
After Smith opted to transfer, Williams said in a March text message to The Roanoke Times that “Adam and I are close. He is a great kid.”
Smith did not start in the team’s two games in the 2015 ACC Tournament, but he said that did not contribute to his decision to transfer.
“I was fine with that, ” Smith said. “We changed stuff up and it worked. … I respected and trusted Coach Buzz.”
Smith said he did not leave out of any fear that his minutes might decrease this season, when there will be a number of Virginia Tech perimeter players seeking playing time.
“I’ve kind of prevailed in a lot of situations, so that wasn’t a factor, ” he said.
Virginia Tech granted Smith a release to play anywhere he chose. Smith, a native of Jonesboro, Georgia, said Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Georgia Southern contacted him.
Georgia Tech gave Smith the opportunity to remain in the ACC, to play near his family and to play alongside friends. He is one of nine Georgia natives on the Yellow Jackets.
“All these kids I’m playing with now, … I grew up playing with them, ” Smith said.
Smith was initially concerned about having to start over with a new team.
“But with new players coming in at Virginia Tech and Seth [Allen] and Zach [LeDay] being eligible, each year is different no matter if you stay or transfer, ” Smith said. “This transition was … easy because it’s another ACC school.”
The Yellow Jackets went 12-19, 3-15 last season. No one on the squad made more than 32 3-pointers.
Smith and his new teammates recently returned from an exhibition trip to the Bahamas.
“I’m excited about what we have, excited to be playing with a senior [-laden] ballclub — just excited to be back home, ” Smith said.
Graduate students do not have to sit out a season after transferring. But because he had already transferred once before, Smith had to receive a waiver from the NCAA in order to play this season.
When the Yellow Jackets host the Hokies this season, Smith will be playing against his former teammates.
“It’s going to be fun, ” Smith said. “I still keep in touch with a lot of those guys. … We developed a family relationship.”