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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wildcats look forward to proving depth in wake of Ray Smith’s season-ending injury

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Rebecca Noble

Arizona forward Ray Smith (2) prepares to slam a dunk in McKale Center on Saturday, Oct. 17, during the Red-Blue Game’s dunk contest. Smith suffered a season-ending knee injury late last week after recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in the summer of 2014.

Every sports fan loves an inspiring and uplifting story of an elite high school player destined for commotion on the collegiate stage. Especially when that athlete suffers a career-threatening injury after being recruited by one of the country’s most prestigious college basketball programs. This is the story of Las Vegas standout and Arizona freshman Ray Smith.

The No. 29 rated recruit out of the Class of 2015 suffered a season-ending right knee injury last week, the team announced Saturday night.

Smith tore his left ACL in the summer of 2014, but Arizona didn’t falter in its decision to recruit the star-studded small forward.

Elite college programs like that of Arizona usually withdraw their offers when a player suffers an injury like Smith’s, but head coach Sean Miller knew he had something special.

“Ray Smith is one of the most talented young players that has ever entered our program,” Miller said in a statement. “The news of his injury is incredibly disappointing on several levels.”

Smith was expected to compete for a spot on Arizona’s starting roster and had done just that through offseason camps and practices with the team. The forward flashed special signs of brilliance in the Wildcats’ Red-Blue Game on Oct. 17, recording eight points and two assists in 20 minutes of action.

The talented 6-foot-8 freshman wing will in all likelihood announce his decision to redshirt this season with his injury and begin his Wildcat campaign next year.

“His journey in getting to the top of the mountain might be different,” Miller said. “But I have tremendous belief that he will get there with this type of support, his amazing determination to succeed and the love of the game of basketball that he possesses.”

Arizona doesn’t have a lot of experience with these types of injuries, at least not to a player of Smith’s magnitude. Outside of losing Brandon Ashley to a season-ending foot injury in the 2014 season, when the Wildcats were poised for Miller’s first run to a Final Four, the Wildcats haven’t had to overcome this type of adversity in the recent past.

The Wildcats’ squad, however, is still optimistic about the upcoming season and has shown more concern over Smith’s career than their own season.

“The togetherness of our program is one of our strengths,” Miller said. “Our great fans, former and current players, our medical and coaching staffs along with Ray’s family look forward to the challenges of helping him reach all of his goals and dreams.”

Five-star Arizona recruit Allonzo Trier, who is also expected to be in the mix for a starting role this season, tweeted his support for his teammate late Saturday night:

Arizona basketball should still be in shape to be a top 10 team this season with the additions of Ryan Anderson, Kadeem Allen, Justin Simon and Mark Tollefsen, who could all see an increase in minutes during Smith’s absence.

Miller and the Wildcats will have until Sunday, Nov. 8, to decide who will step in at small forward in Arizona’s first real-game action of the season when they take on Chico State in an exhibition game.

Arizona will open its season in McKale Center without Smith on Friday, Nov. 13, against Pacific.


Follow Dominic Baciocco on Twitter.


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