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UCLA’s Chris Smith won’t return

NCAA Basketball: Utah at UCLA

Dec 31, 2020; Los Angeles, California, CA; UCLA Bruins guard Chris Smith (5) moves in for a basket against Utah Utes forward Mikael Jantunen (20) during the first half at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- Chris Smith, who injured his knee in January and was out the rest of his senior season, won’t be returning to UCLA.

He announced his decision on social media. Smith could have returned in 2021-22 because the NCAA granted all seniors an extra year of eligibility due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Smith averaged 12.6 points and 6.4 rebounds while starting the first eight games before sustaining an ACL tear to his left knee. The 6-foot-9 guard from Chicago had not missed a game during his career until he hurt his knee. He was forced to watch as the Bruins made a run to the Final Four before losing to Gonzaga in the national semifinals.

Smith is hoping that the potential he displayed during his four years in Westwood is enough to parlay into a career in the NBA.

“Even though my last year did not go the way we all wanted, I feel as if it was the best,” Smith wrote in an online message. “I am so blessed and lucky to be in this position, to now have a chance to live out my childhood dream of playing basketball for a living.”

Smith went on to thank former UCLA coach Steve Alford and current coach Mick Cronin for their roles in his development.

“Chris will make it as a professional as he gets healthy, no doubt,” Cronin said online.

Smith’s teammates, Johnny Juzang and Cody Riley, submitted their names to the NBA draft and they have until Wednesday to withdraw.