West Virginia judge’s NCAA ruling helps Utah Utes basketball transfer

The two-time transfer played 12 minutes in a 76-62 win over the Utah Valley Wolverines.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes guard Deivon Smith (5) helps the team warm up at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 01, 2023.

Deivon Smith finally got his moment.

The senior guard suited up for the Runnin’ Utes for the first time Saturday in the wake of a West Virginia judge’s ruling that has temporarily prevented the NCAA from enforcing its rules regarding two-time transfers.

Smith recorded two assists and a steal in a 76-62 win over the Utah Valley Wolverines at the Huntsman Center.

“Honestly, I didn’t really know how to feel,” Smith said. “I hadn’t played a game since last February. To come to a new home, a new place and feel so welcome and see people who actually want to see me play, it’s a blessing.”

Smith, who played at Mississippi State and Georgia Tech before transferring to Utah, had been awaiting an appeal he hoped would allow him to play for the Utes this season.

U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey’s decision in West Virginia last week, meanwhile, opened the door for Smith and other two-time transfers to take the court immediately.

The NCAA had originally said two-time transfers who played during a 14-day window could risk losing a season of eligibility if the ruling was overturned. But that temporary restraining order will now reportedly last through the spring, clearing Smith and other two-time transfers to play for their teams for the rest of the season without penalty.

“Honestly it’s been all over,” Smith said of the emotions in the 36 hours leading up to his debut. “A lot of ups and downs of course.”

Smith started 13 games for the Yellow Jackets as a junior and averaged 7.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

He played 12 minutes and went 0 for 2 from the floor in his Utah debut.

“It felt kind of weird to be back out there, my first possession going up and down, but I started to get comfortable with the guys,” Smith said afterward. “I’m not really worried. Once I get comfortable and we get our chemistry together, we’re going to be a really good team.”

The Utes pulled away in the second half behind 26 points from Branden Carlson and 13 apiece from Gabe Madsen and Rollie Worster. It was the fifth straight win for the Utes (8-2), who will finish their nonconference schedule when they host Bellarmine on Wednesday.

“In my four years playing this is probably the best group of teammates I’ve had,” Smith said. “I felt an instant connection to the staff, the players, and the state of Utah. As you can see today it was super welcoming. It was probably one of the best decision I’ve made. And now it’s time to show why I’m here.”

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