Arkansas star freshman Nick Smith Jr., the No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class and a projected NBA lottery pick in 2023, is out indefinitely due to “right knee management,” according to the school.Smith, who emerged in December as one of the most productive players in college basketball, missed the first six games of the season for the same reason. He averaged 19.7 points per game in a three-game stretch to open the month of December. Still, he showed discomfort and checked himself out of the game early vs. Oklahoma on Dec. 10 and left Saturday’s game vs. Bradley in the second half in apparent discomfort. It’s unclear if he is dealing with a new injury or if it’s an aggravation of the same injury that has plagued him this year.Arkansas coach Eric Musselman tried to quell fears of a potentially serious injury after the Bradley game, saying emphatically “no” postgame — three times in rapid succession — when asked if Smith had suffered a serious injury. Musselman instead described it more as discomfort.
“He got taped at halftime, and then the tape felt a little uncomfortable,” Musselman said. “I just didn’t really feel the need to put him back in when he got taped up at halftime and then left to get re-taped. By that point, I just felt like, and I discussed it on the bench, with the flow and the way the game was going, there wasn’t a need to put him back in at that juncture.”Smith left the Oklahoma game with just over five minutes remaining and missed the final 17 minutes of the game vs. Bradley on Saturday.
Arkansas is ranked No. 10 in the latest AP Top 25 and is 10-1 through 11 games, marking its best start since 2019-20. Without Smith, the Razorbacks have a loaded roster led by top scorer Ricky Council IV and five-star freshman Anthony Black, but it dramatically lowers the team’s ceiling if Smith is not at full strength.