Nolan Smith was an NBA first-round draft pick in 2011 and a year removed from an NCAA championship at Duke when he feared he might become the “next hashtag.”

Smith was on his way back to Durham from Los Angeles when he and a friend had a frightening encounter with police, as he tells Andy Katz on the latest episode of March Madness 365. That is one of two stories he shares in the interview, which begins around the 43-minute mark.

The first he describes began as what the former Blue Devil star thought was a normal traffic stop. A dropped phone and Smith bending down inside the car to retrieve it led to guns drawn and Smith being told to put his hands in the air.

“That’s when I start shaking,” Smith told Katz. “All I’m thinking is, I’m in the middle of this busy highway, he’s about to shoot me.”

Smith said the white officer continued to act aggressively and referred to him derogatorily as “boy.” Smith, asked to provide ID, gave the officer his driver’s license and his Duke alumni card.

“Something in my head said, ‘this is my white card,'” Smith said. “This is my get-out-of-here card.”

Smith said the officer’s tone changed after realizing he was a Duke alumni and basketball player. The officer began to call him “sir.” Police told Smith the reason they stopped them was they thought they witnessed a drug transaction after Smith moved his luggage from one car to another outside of a restaurant before he headed to the airport.

“I’ve had guns pulled on me two times by police officers,” Smith said. “I could’ve been a hashtag in my life. So when I see these stories and I hear them it hits home and it hurts, because why did they have to die?”

Smith’s full account of this interaction and another with police in Durham can be heard in detail on the Sept. 1 edition of March Madness 365. 

RACE IN COLLEGE SPORTS: Leonard Hamilton: College sports ‘opened America’s eyes’ to the positives of diversity and integration

Tom Izzo, John Calipari and Mark Few were also on this edition of the pod as to talk about their favorite memories of the late Lute Olson and John Thompson, how they have pushed forward with the McClendon Minority Leadership Initiative and what a college basketball regular season might look like amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

The March Madness 365 podcast is a weekly podcast covering all things college basketball. You can listen and subscribe to the podcast here, on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify and Stitcher.

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