Gophers' Malik Smith gets transfer waiver approved to play next season
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNEAPOLIS -- Following practice on Tuesday, Minnesota Gophers men's basketball guard Malik Smith wasn't shy in mentioning how anxious he has been waiting for the NCAA to approve his transfer waiver from Florida International to play right away next season for the Gophers.
On Wednesday he finally got his answer, and it was the one he was looking for.
The Gophers announced Wednesday that Smith, who transferred in May after playing his junior season for now-Minnesota coach Richard Pitino at FIU, has had his eligibility waiver approved and will be available to play when the season begins in November.
Smith's eligibility is a critical development for the Gophers, as the 6-foot-2 guard is being expected to strengthened the backcourt and provide Pitino a presence on the team who already is familiar with his playing system.
Throughout the Gophers' summer practice sessions, Smith has garnered the praise of Pitino, largely because of his already cemented ability to run Pitino's offense.
"He's the only one that knows how to play for me," Pitino said Tuesday. "He had a year, a year and a half with me. He knows the plays. He's comfortable. He'll take a shot, he knows that I may be a little frustrated but he can get away with a little bit. He's just comfortable."
Smith has embraced his role as the bridge between Pitino and the nine players on the roster from last season, giving them a source to bounce idea off of and ask questions to.
"I think it's a big advantage," Smith said. "because I can not only help myself, but I can also help everybody else know where they need to be on the floor. I think that helps a lot."
Smith was a All-Sun Belt conference third team selection last season, with a 14.1 points per game average.