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Arizona basketball: Ray Smith undergoes successful knee surgery, will remain a part of the Wildcats “forever”

Smith traveled with the team to the Las Vegas Invitational

Chris Coduto-Getty Images

Arizona Wildcats forward Ray Smith had successful knee surgery last week, head coach Sean Miller announced Tuesday at his weekly press conference.

The former five-star recruit from Las Vegas suffered an ACL tear in an exhibition against the College of Idaho on Nov. 1.

Smith, a redshirt freshman, missed the 2015-16 season with an ACL tear, as well, and decided to retire from basketball after his latest injury — his third knee injury in three years.

“Nobody deserves that,” Miller said. “Especially at 19 years old.”

Miller said Smith’s most recent knee injury was the most severe of the three.

“It’s almost astonishing to say that because everybody saw his injury this time and that was simply that he landed on a layup,” Miller said. “But I think he pretty much lost everything in his knee, everything was torn. ...It’s hard to believe it really is.”

Miller admired the spirit and perspective Smith has been able to have throughout the adversity he has faced.

“To not acknowledge what that kid has been through is irresponsible on my part — if I don’t point out the unbelievable adversity he’s been under and how well he’s handled it,” Miller said. “It’s a tribute to his dad, his family, him, and it says a lot about Ray’s future. When you can overcome things like he has, you can handle virtually anything in life.”

So, what does Smith’s future entail?

While Smith did announce his retirement, he did not completely close the door to a return to basketball, saying he is “98 percent sure” he will step away from the game for good.

In the meantime, Miller said Smith, who is working toward getting his degree at the UA, is doing well academically and will continue to be a part of the basketball program in some fashion.

Miller said earlier in the month that they were trying to “iron out” a role for Smith moving forward.

Smith was with the Wildcats in Las Vegas Invitational this past weekend, and will likely continue to travel with the team once the fall semester wraps up.

“He’s a part of what we do,” Miller said. “I don’t know if he’s going to travel with us at the beginning because of his swelling in his knee and it’s important he finishes up strong academically, but once we get through the first semester, I think he’ll be with us from that point on.”

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