A bleak college basketball story popped up Thursday afternoon when a 19-year-old former five-star recruit with NBA potential announced his retirement from basketball.
Seeing someone who's not yet of legal drinking age decide to give up hoops is rare, to put it lightly, but Ray Smith's journey to his decision is just as uncommon. Smith, ranked 19th the class of 2015, suffered three ACL injuries in the past 30 months. It's all too much, and the latest setback -- which came during Arizona's Tuesday night exhibition game -- is prompting Smith to alter the course of his life.
"My run in basketball has been great," Smith wrote. "My father once told me that just because someone is a good basketball player doesn't make them a good person. That the sport doesn't define who we are, only what we can do. I love the game of basketball, but I have decided to step away from the game for good. I will still be involved with the team and I will still attend THE University of Arizona. Pretty much what I'm saying is thank you BASKETBALL, you've been GREAT! But the 6-8 long, athletic wing that can play multiple positions is out."
Arizona coach Sean Miller put out a statement shortly thereafter.
"About a year ago I began my statement regarding Ray Smith's season-ending injury by saying, 'Ray Smith is one of the most talented young players that has ever entered our program.' Unfortunately, I begin this year's statement by reiterating the special talent that Ray has on the basketball court and once again addressing a season-ending knee injury.
"In the 25 years I have been a college basketball coach, I have never felt as helpless as I did when I saw him go down on Tuesday night. No 19-year-old kid should have to experience three season-ending injuries in a 30-month period of time. I have watched Ray work with our strength and conditioning coach tirelessly for two years. I have seen him in our training room around the clock, doing everything he can to play the game he loves. To witness his extraordinary efforts and see this happen to him once again is beyond disheartening."
Can't help but wonder how this affects the Wildcats' team psyche in the short term. And as for Arizona's outlook, things remain murky. If his body held up, Smith could have blossomed into one of the best players to watch in college basketball. Without him, Arizona loses an all-around piece it can't replace this season.
That's not all, though. As we posted earlier in the week, there's uncertainty elsewhere. Allonzo Trier, who is the team's best all-around player on offense, remains on the sidelines. He hasn't participated in official team events and didn't play in Arizona's exhibition earlier this week. Rumors about his eligibility continue to swirl and Miller has not publicly acknowledged the reasons for Trier's leave yet.
Arizona also has indefinitely suspended Chance Comanche due to poor academic performance. For a team pegged by almost every college basketball pundit as a preseason top-25 club, the Wildcats find themselves with a lot to figure out -- and the season starts in eight days.