5-star Smith quiet in debut

By: Scottie Bordelon Scottie Bordelon's Twitter account , Tom Murphy
Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2022
Arkansas guard Nick Smith (3) dribbles the ball during a game against Troy on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, in Fayetteville.
( Charlie Kaijo)
Arkansas guard Nick Smith (3) dribbles the ball during a game against Troy on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas freshman Nick Smith made his college debut during the Razorbacks' 74-61 victory over Troy on Monday while wearing a long compression sleeve on his right leg. 

The anticipation for the debut of the McDonald’s All-American and 5-star prospect had been building for days, since he opened the season rehabbing from a knee issue.

As Smith went to mid-court the buzz in Walton Arena grew and peaked when he was announced as a substitute at the 14:08 mark of the first half.

Smith pulled a 6-minute stint and went 0 for 2, including a miss from three-point range, and grabbed 1 rebound. The 6-5 guard from Jacksonville did not play in the second half, though Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said he thought several times about reinserting him but didn’t think it was fair in a tight game.

“When you’ve coached a long time, I’ve been down this situation a lot,” he said. “Player is on a minutes restriction.

“I think the biggest thing I kept thinking about is he’s going to have four days of practice leading up to the next game. Nick is really anxious to play and we’re really anxious to have him play.”

Smith missed the Razorbacks’ first six games of the season due to knee management, according to a program release prior to Arkansas’ season opener against North Dakota State on Nov. 7. 

"He’s had several weeks of rehab and he’s worked hard," Musselman told Razorback Sports Network before the game. "His attitude on the bench has been phenomenal. He’s been like an extra coach. We’re going to ease him back into this thing. The rehab he’s done, he’s put a tremendous amount of work in with our training staff, with our strength coach, with our trainer, and he’s really excited to play."

The guard is widely considered to be among the top players in college basketball and a projected top-five pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Musselman said Saturday that Smith would meet with a doctor Monday to be evaluated. 

“Nick has done a great job of late,” Musselman said Saturday. “His repetitions in practice have continued to get better and improve."

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