Ray Smith has a presence about him. The 6-foot-9-inch Smith he sticks out, and that has more to do with his personality than anything.
Smith and UA teammate Kobi Simmons took turns recording video of each other dancing Friday at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Soon after, Smith sat in the corner, surrounded by media, teammates and assistant coach Book Richardson, and began to freestyle rap. (UA assistant coach Book Richardson dropped the beat.)
That Smith is still smiling is remarkable in an of itself.
“It’s bittersweet,” Smith said. “Bittersweet is definitely the word.”
Smith tore his ACL as a high school senior in Las Vegas, missing the season. He tore his other ACL as a UA freshman last season and missed a full year. Smith returned healthy to start his redshirt freshman season, but suffered a third ACL tear during a UA exhibition game, and was forced to medically retire. Smith has remained involved with the team.
He’s admired the chemistry on this year’s team which, he said, is something that wasn’t as prevalent last season.
“It’s exciting,” Smith said. “Last year it wasn’t as special as this year, the way this team is gelling.”
The situation is still tough at times, however.
“I think at times he really acts like he’s okay. But he’s searching, he’s trying to find his niche and where he’s going to end up,” said UA coach Sean Miller. “It’s one of the great stories of our season because we’ve hung in there. And I think in some ways worked to honor Ray by our performance and knowing that he can’t be with us.”