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LSU's Ja'Vonte Smart (1) drives against Arkansas' Ethan Henderson (24) in their SEC Tournament semifinal game, Saturday, March 13, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn.

In three years with the LSU basketball team, Javonte Smart showed steady improvement in some important statistical categories from his first season to his third.

The most important numbers were the strides he made in his scoring averages and field-goal percentages, which increased each year in his career with his hometown university.

They were enough to make the 6-foot-4 combo guard from Scotlandville Magnet put his name in the NBA draft, which wasn’t a surprise after he also explored his options after his first two seasons.

Smart, who received feedback from NBA front-office executives and scouts last spring before returning to school, made his intentions known in a social media post Thursday.

"First I want to thank God for the many blessings upon me!" Smart wrote in the post. "To the LSU coaches, managers, and teammates (brothers), thank you for an amazing three years."

He is the second player in as many days to apply for the draft, following sophomore forward Trendon Watford's announcement on Wednesday.

Watford and Smart both intend to hire agents.

Smart and Watford made up half of LSU's "Big Four" this season, which also included freshman guard Cam Thomas and junior forward Darius Days — who are also expected declare for the draft.

They helped the Tigers go 19-10 and to the second round of the NCAA tournament, accounting for 80.0% of the team's scoring.

After getting valuable minutes as a freshman behind point guard Tremont Waters and shooting guard Skylar Mays, a pair of All-Southeastern Conference first-team selections, Smart took over at the point the past two seasons and flourished.

This season, he ranked third on the team behind Thomas and Watford in scoring 16.0 points a game.

Starting all 28 games he appeared in, Smart complemented his scoring with a strong all-around game that saw him average 4.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds.

He tied for ninth in the league in scoring and was third in assists.

A second-team All-SEC pick this season, Smart shot 46.0% from the field and led the league in knocking down 40.2% of his shots from beyond the 3-point arc.

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He was the catalyst for Will Wade’s up-tempo offense, which led the conference in scoring 81.8 points per game.

LSU ranked fifth in Division I in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to the metrics of national analyst Ken Pomeroy.

Smart was the conference’s top 3-point shooter by a wide margin as South Carolina’s AJ Lawson was next at 35.1% among those who had enough attempts to qualify.

He was also an 85.7% free-throw shooter this season and hit 83.6% from the free throw line for his career.

Smart matched his career-high in scoring with 29 points in a loss to Texas Tech on Jan. 30, then had a career-best 11 assists in a crucial road win over Mississippi State on Feb. 10.

While playing in the shadow of Waters and Mays, he netted 11.1 points a game as a freshman and increased that to 12.5 as a sophomore and 16.0 as a junior.

Smart also shot 36.8% from the field as a freshman and upped that to 41.5% in 2020 and 46.0% this past season.

Two of his best performances this season came in the SEC and NCAA tournaments.

He almost willed his team to a win in the SEC tournament final with 21 points and five assists in a one-point loss to Alabama, then dropped in 27 points and added five assists in a second-round NCAA tournament loss to Michigan.

Smart would have been a part of three consecutive NCAA tournament teams if the 2020 season had not been wiped out by the COVID pandemic as the Tigers would have been in the 68-team field.

He helped LSU to a 28-7 record and a berth in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament in his first year in 2018, then served as the Tigers’ main floor leader when they went 21-10 in 2020 and 19-10 this season.

A three-time Gatorade Louisiana player of the year and three-time Louisiana Mr. Basketball honoree as chosen by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, Smart piled up 3,306 career points in leading Scotlandville to state titles in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

“I felt like coming back would be the best thing for me, just learning more,” Smart said of his decision to return for the 2021 season. “This year helped me learn a lot more about myself, and about just growing up as a man.”

Email Sheldon Mickles at smickles@theadvocate.com