"I wanted to have a chance to play for a Hall of Fame coach in Mark Few, to be a part of a winning culture, for a team that has a family feel," Smith told ESPN.
Smith chose the Zags over a group that included Louisville, Texas Tech, DePaul and Stanford, but he had interest from almost every school in need of a guard since entering the transfer portal in late April.
Smith, the Southern Conference Player of the Year, was one of the best mid-major players in the country last season, averaging 19.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game while shooting 40.7% from 3-point range. He was also testing the NBA draft waters prior to withdrawing at the NCAA deadline and says he gathered valuable feedback from teams on what they want to see him work on to improve his professional standing.
"They want me to demonstrate that I can be a versatile defender against NBA-caliber talent while continuing to show my offensive game as a point guard," he said. "They want to see that I can compete at this level."
Smith joins a Gonzaga team that will garner consideration as the preseason No. 1 team in the country along with North Carolina after returning several key players. That includes preseason National Player of the Year candidate Drew Timme and two other starters from last year's NCAA tournament No. 1 overall seed in fifth-year senior Rasir Bolton and junior Julian Strawther -- both double-digit scorers.
Smith says that being a part of a team with national championship aspirations was attractive, even if there are no guarantees he will be the focal point of the offense with so many talented players returning.
"A lot of winning teams that contend for titles have great pieces," he said. "Kansas has four or five guys that could have been the man on different teams. Gonzaga's Final Four team had four or five players that can play in the NBA. I know that being a part of a great team, everything will work out the way it's supposed to be, as long as we're winning games."
Perhaps most importantly for Gonzaga, Smith brings a battle-tested, experienced guard known for his vocal leadership -- something the roster currently lacks.
"I bring talent, but I've also been in March Madness," he said. "I've led a team on a tournament run. I have experience being a leader, using my voice and knowing where guys need to be to help everything run smoothly. My goal is to be a part of something special, and elevate my game."