By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas freshman guard Nick Smith, Jr. (right knee management) was back with his Razorbacks teammates at the practice facility this week and he’ll be back on the bench with the team for Saturday’s home game against Ole Miss at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, according to a source.
At this time there is no change in the standard or timeline for a potential Smith return to game action, which remains Smith getting to 100% while being out at least through the end of January.
Smith (6-5 guard, Jacksonville native) missed Arkansas’ first six regular-season games of 2022-23 as a “precautionary measure” related to his right knee before returning to play in the team’s next five games. He was pulled early in the second half of Arkansas’ tilt against Bradley in North Little Rock on Dec. 17 due to an issue described as a re-wrapping of the knee and he did not return in that game. He has been “out indefinitely” since, missing the last seven games (North Carolina-Asheville plus the Hogs’ first six SEC matchups).
Two weeks ago while speaking to reporters, Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman gave more details on Smith’s status, saying Smith had traveled to Los Angeles to see a specialist, remained there, and would continue to be out indefinitely with an expectation that he would not be available to play through the end of January.
Smith made his regular-season debut against Troy in late November, playing only six minutes in the first half. In the four games following the Troy contest when Smith played significant minutes in the rotation, he averaged 16.0 points, 2.3 assists, and 2.0 rebounds in 28.0 minutes per game while shooting 40.4% from the field, including 31.2% from 3, and 84.2% from the free throw line. Counting the Troy game, Smith averaged 12.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 23.4 minutes per outing while shooting 38.9% from the field, including 30.0% from 3, and 84.2% from the free throw line.
He averaged 21.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.0 steal in wins over North Carolina-Greensboro and Oklahoma in early December to earn USBWA National Freshman of the Week and SEC Freshman of the Week honors.
Smith is projected to be a top 5-10 lottery pick as a one-and-done in the 2023 NBA Draft in June.