Freshman Ray Smith knows about adversity. The Las Vegas product lost his senior year of high school to a torn ACL, right after blowing up on the national scene during summer play.
Anyone who knows about sports injuries knows the severity of a torn ACL. It’s an injury that can sap the most talented player’s ability.
But in the face of adversity, Ray Smith stepped up. Staying the course on a grueling path to rehabilitation, Smith fought back from injury step by step. It’s a frustrating, challenging road to come back from a torn ACL, but Smith rose to that challenge.
That’s why no one should worry if Smith initially finds himself buried on the depth chart. He’s used to overcoming the odds.
As a supremely versatile player, Smith can contribute in a number of different areas on the court. It’s just not yet apparent what his role will be to start the season.
A mobile forward with great height, Smith can play on the perimeter where he can make shots. His height and vision also make him a threat to pass over the defense, creating the potential for an effective high-low game.
Smith can also moonlight as a power forward in certain lineups, where his length and craftiness around the basket could come in handy. He’s also a good rebounder who can corral missed shots and push the ball up the floor.
And as a defender, Smith has the potential to lock down multiple positions. His tenacity and competitive spirit give him the mental makeup of a plus defender, something that has always been essential to Sean Miller teams.
But in spite of Smith’s ability to play in a variety of spots, the makeup of the roster complicates his path to consistent playing time in his first year.
Arizona will likely deploy a fair amount of three guard lineups, with Gabe York, Kadeem Allen, Allonzo Trier, and Elliott Pitts monopolizing the time on the perimeter. That cuts down on minutes that Smith could play the traditional small forward role.
And on the interior, Arizona will rely heavily on the experience and rebounding of Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson. As a freshman who is still developing his body, it may be too much to ask of Smith to take the physical punishment of playing in the paint during year one.
But like I said, don’t worry about Smith. Though no one knows exactly where he’ll fit in at the beginning of the season, Smith is the type of player who will carve out his own role.
The flow of the game is what usually dictates how players are used. And that’s something that works to Smith’s favor.
If Arizona needs extra size on the wing, Smith can step in. If Arizona needs a defensive rebounder who can rebound and keep the ball moving, Smith can step in. No matter what the game calls for, there’s a way that Smith can contribute.
That’s why even though he doesn’t have a clear role heading into the season, Smith still has the opportunity to impact the game with his versatility.
Watch PGU’s mini-documentary on Ray Smith’s recovery from a torn ACL below: