At this time last year, Ray Smith was preparing for his first season of college basketball after sitting out his entire freshman season with a torn ACL.
But unfortunately for him, his career with the Arizona Wildcats ended before it started as he suffered an additional ACL tear prior to the start of the 2016-17 season and subsequently decided to retire from basketball.
Smith’s playing days were over, but he still remained a part of Arizona basketball, rooting his teammates on and becoming a featured figure in the team’s introduction video.
And Sean Miller said Tuesday that Smith will continue to have a role with the Wildcats in the 2017-18 season.
“This will really be the first year he’s been at Arizona that we already know at the beginning that he won’t be a part of things,” Miller said. “We’ll define his role, whatever that’s going to be and I’m looking forward (to it).”
Smith will accompany the Wildcats on their exhibition tour in Spain this month.
“It says a lot about our basketball program, our university that we’re able to bring him along and pay for the trip,” Miller said. “It’s a great experience for Ray and one he deserves.”
Miller didn’t delve too much into what type of role Smith will have, as getting his degree is above anything else.
Smith, an academic junior, is a general studies major.
“He’ll be around,” Miller said. “It’s difficult to go to practice because it’s more important that he takes a class and doesn’t have to worry about blocking his schedule off between a certain period of time.
“Same thing with traveling. It doesn’t make sense for him to always travel because his No. 1 focus is to get his degree, and do the best that he can. But he’ll be at our home games, he’ll travel once in a while — postseason or spring break, Christmas.”
Arizona point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright thinks it’s “great” that Smith will continue to have a role with the Wildcats and travel with the team to Spain.
“He’s a vocal leader,” he said. “Even when he was playing, he was one of our best leaders. He was always talkative and positive, and I think he brings the same thing now, so it’s great to have him around, because you know he’s still passionate. He can really help us.”
This summer, Smith coached at Sean Miller Basketball Camp. Maybe that will be his calling after college.
“He’ll have something in that field,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “He impacts a lot of people.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire