The worst news feared for Leslee Smith has come to fruition.
The Nebraska senior has suffered an ACL tear in his left knee and will be out indefinitely, Husker men’s basketball coach Tim Miles announced Tuesday.
Smith, who suffered the injury Thursday while playing for his native British Virgin Islands team at the FIBA Caribbean Basketball Championships in Tortola, British Islands, returned to Lincoln on Monday night and on Tuesday underwent an MRI, which revealed the tear.
This is the second time Smith, a 6-foot-8 forward, has suffered an ACL tear. He had the same injury to his other knee in March of 2011, when he played at SMU. He spent two seasons there, one of which he redshirted, before playing the 2012-13 season at Seward County (Kan.) Community College.
In his first season with Nebraska as a transfer last season, Smith averaged 5.4 points and 4.8 rebounds as the Huskers’ first post player off the bench. He played in all 32 games, starting one.
A news release from Nebraska media relations said Miles, athletic trainer R.J. Pietig and the NU medical staff are developing a time frame for his surgery and rehabilitation.
Nebraska, void of post depth last season, added Georgetown fifth-year senior transfer Moses Ayegba, a 6-9, 247-pound center, in the offseason, to go with incoming freshman Jake Hammond, who signed in November.
Whether Smith’s injury affects possible plans to redshirt Hammond, a 6-10, 227-pound center from Comanche, Okla., remains to be seen.
“Not ruling out anything,” Miles said in a text message.
Smith was averaging 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds for the British Virgin Islands, which was 2-0 in tournament action but went winless after Smith’s injury and placed fourth.
Another Nebraska player returning to his native country for possible FIBA competition, Tai Webster, will head home to New Zealand this week in top shape.
Nebraska strength and conditioning coach Tim Wilson said the 6-foot-4 Webster, a sophomore guard, has increased his weight to 200 pounds and dropped his body fat to 5 percent from 9 percent at the beginning of the summer.
Webster will begin tryouts Saturday for the New Zealand national team, which will compete in the FIBA World Cup in Spain. Should Webster make the team, he’ll be gone late August through early September.
Junior guard Terran Petteway, who stayed in Lincoln after the end of the spring semester, along with Webster, started the summer weighing 205 pounds, with 6 percent body fat, Wilson said.
Petteway, the Big Ten’s leading scorer last season, now weighs 218 pounds with a body fat of 4 percent.
“Terran, and Tai are probably my top two,” Wilson said. “Shavon (Shields) and Nick (Fuller) aren’t far behind. Terran and Tai stayed here to work out during the break, and it really put them ahead of the others.”
Wilson said he’s been impressed with the newcomers, particularly freshman guard Tarin Smith, whom Wilson said “is a very impressive athlete that I’m really excited about. He’s getting stronger and has a great work ethic.”
Hammond, like Smith, has a huge upside, Wilson said, and is working at getting bigger and stronger. Ayegba, who has a 7-foot-3 wing span, is working to improve his flexibility and mobility.
“If we can get this ‘iron horse’ to move better,” Wilson said, "it could/should be interesting.”
Wilson said junior Walter Pitchford is the team’s strongest upper-body player, that 5-9, 166-pound junior Benny Parker may be “pound for pound the stronger player on the team,” and that David Rivers continues to make progress.
Nebraska coaches will hit the road Wednesday for the beginning of a busy July in recruiting.
Wednesday through Sunday is the first of three straight evaluation periods for college coaches; the others are July 16-20 and July 23-27, when coaches will be attending various AAU tournaments and events across the country.
Nebraska is looking for its first commitment to the 2015 class, which will have at least three open scholarships.
One of its top recruiting targets, Chicago Simeon forward Ed Morrow Jr., has been selected to participate in the LeBron James Skills Academy.
A former commitment to the Huskers’ 2015 class, forward Keanu Pinder, on Tuesday signed a letter of intent with Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, a school spokesman there said.
Kansas transfer Andrew White, who has already visited Nebraska and Notre Dame, tweeted he will visit Florida State this weekend.