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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Ray Smith becomes leader for UA despite two ACL tears

Rebecca Noble
Arizona forward Ray Smith (2) dunks the ball during Arizona’s Red-Blue scrimmage on Oct 17 in McKale Center. The freshman missed the season due to a right knee injury.

For Ray Smith, the moment must have felt like an eternity.

Smith sat out a large portion of his senior season at Las Vegas High School after an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Everything was supposed to be different in Tucson. Things finally turned Smith’s way, as seen in the Arizona preseason Red-Blue Game. Smith finished 3-for-7 from the field, notching eight points, two assists and three turnovers in 20 minutes of action.

Sporting the No. 2 jersey in red and blue, he wowed the crowd, dancing and capitalizing on a top-notch dunk.

Then time stopped on Oct. 24. Smith injured his opposite knee in practice.

It wasn’t long before the 6-foot-8 forward out of Las Vegas was lost to an ACL injury for the entire season, before it even started.

“The year’s been all lifting,” Smith said in February. “Chris Rounds does an amazing job and I’ve taken it upon myself to try to get as big as I can physically. It’s helped me a lot because my only problem was that I was too little.”

Smith has undoubtedly become a fearsome competitor on the sidelines. He even became the team hype man in the huddle before games late in the season.

“Watched Ray Smith practice for the first time with UA today,” Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen tweeted. “Buried five straight 3’s [sic] after between-legs dribble, with fall back release. Wow.”

While on the sidelines, Smith has seen it all and done a lot of watching. He watched helplessly as his team fell to Wichita State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. He watched his teammates lose eight regular season games. He watched his head coach rip into his team’s starting center. But all he could do was watch.

“I believe everything happens for a reason and when it first happened, I was down,” Smith said. “It’s really helped me to better my strengths and focus on my weaknesses.”

Those lessons have only pushed Smith to work harder, both on and off the court. He is ready to guide next year’s Arizona team to greater heights, as he recently vowed to return and not test the NBA waters.

“I just can’t wait for the young fellas to come, show them the ropes, show them how to do things and get this team running and started again,” Smith said to the Arizona Daily Star. “I’m a young fella, but I’m still pretty mature, so I will try to take this team under my wing, because no one is going to push us harder than someone who sat out for two years.”

Unfortunately, athletes tearing both of their ACL’s is not uncommon. In fact, they usually do suffer another one following the first, according to Dr. James Andrews, an orthopedic surgeon. Some notable athletes who suffered multiple ACL tears include Michael Redd and Sam Bradford.

“Coach really just preaches ‘take care of your business,’” Smith said. “Just get as big as I can. It’s good to be on these road trips to see how things work and different schools.”

Next season, it will be up to Smith to take charge of a team that featured lopsided offensive performances. Losing big men like Kaleb Tarczewski, Ryan Anderson and Mark Tollefsen, it’s time for Smith to take their place.

While it may not have happened as quickly as he may have liked, it’s Smith’s turn to shine. He’s been waiting for that moment for two years.

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