Russ Smith is truly a Cardinals’ Legend. Whether it be his enjoyable personality, his insane ability on a basketball court, or the positive ways he changed former Cardinal coach Rick Pitino, Russ became and remains a fan favorite. Now, for all the things he accomplished on the court, Russ will have his number join those of Charlie Tyra, Pervis Ellison, Wes Unseld, and Darrell Griffith as numbers retired by the university. The ceremony will take place, according to Russ himself, on January 22nd at the KFC Yum! Center. UofL will be playing against familiar foe Notre Dame.
January 22nd,— Russdiculous 🚥 Russ Smith (@Specter_Smit) December 24, 2021
#2 will be put up to the rafters for good.
Thank you to all of my teammates, coaches, fans & friends during my time in school & making it the greatest college experience ever.
I’ve also made relationships here for life & I’m forever grateful.
Thank you UofL 🏀🙏 pic.twitter.com/9y5swgk5Wt
Smith is arguably one of the most charismatic players to ever suit up for the Cards. On the court, he exuded a playful energy that he could channel into dogged defense and offensive fetes that should’ve been impossible. Russ Smith on a 1-on-5 break is better than most on a 3-on-1 break. He was arguably the quickest guard to ever play at Louisville and helped lead the program to its 3rd national title.
Russ holds the record for career steals for UofL with 275. He’s 5th in scoring with 1908 career points. He scored the 3rd-most points in a single game with 42 against Rutgers. Smith holds 3 spots in the top 10 for single-season steals. He holds the second spot behind backcourt-mate Peyton Siva with 87 steals in 2010-2011, and also holds the 8th spot and is tied for the 9th spot on the list. He also recorded the 3rd-most steals in a single game with 8.
With all of Russ’ statistical accomplishments and his play leading to vast quantities of wins, Russ was named a consensus First Team All-American for the 2013-2014 season after being a Third Team All-American selection by the NABC and the Sporting News in 2012-2013. He was also named the MOP of the Midwest Region in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
Russ’ most impressive fete was gaining the trust of a notoriously strict coach when the style Russ thrived in was anything, but strict and fundamentally sound. Russ often took shots that most people would consider to be low-percentage, but he was able to make them at a high rate. He often drove his Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino crazy, but Coach Pitino could not deny that Russ was a unique and powerful weapon on the court. Russ was able to melt away the hard-ass exterior of Pitino and mold him into a coach that took more joy in games and was able to give a longer leash to Russ and others when he had been known for wielding a notoriously short one. Coach Pitino even coined the nickname of endearment that would stick with Russ…Russdiculous.
Off the court, Russ Smith seemed just as rambunctious and fun-loving. The picture of him with a mountain of waffles he was set to devour, the Harlem Shake video, the wide smile he always seemed to carry; everything about Russ Smith off the court seemed to match his playing style on it.
Now, he will join the immortals in the rafters. Tyra, Ellison, Unseld, and Griffith. Russ Smith’s number 2 will never be worn again. It shouldn’t be either. The Cardinal number 2 will forever be associated with Russ Smith. When some of us years from now take our grandchildren to a UofL game and they see that number 2 up high in the KFC Yum! Center rafters and ask about Russ Smith, my what a story we can tell.