By Arthur Kapetanakis, USTA.com

Though the college tennis season was cut short, the ITA still named its All-America teams for the 2020 campaign. USTA.com caught up with some of the upperclassmen on that list for a “Senior Spotlight” series that will run through the month of May. Next up is USC’s Riley Smith.

The USC Trojans were hoping a season that started with an ITA National Team Indoors title and a unanimous No. 1 ranking in the USTA/College Tennis Top 25 poll would end with an NCAA trophy. Instead, it ended abruptly in mid-March when the spread of COVID-19 halted college sports, along with just about everything else in the U.S.

But before the college season was fully put in the rearview mirror, a couple of USC men earned one more accolade by being named to the ITA All-America team. Senior Riley Smith and junior Daniel Cukierman were named doubles All-Americans, with the Israeli Cukierman also earning singles All-America honors. It’s the second All-America nod for Smith, who was also a doubles honoree in 2018, after his sophomore year.

Smith, a native of Long Beach, Calif., is one of three seniors on the Trojans squad, joining fellow Californians Brandon Holt and Rae Lan. All three have the option to return for a fifth year of competition, thanks to an NCAA exception. Should Smith come back, he will play a second season with his younger brother, Colter, who joined the USC squad as a freshman for the 2019-20 season. Smith’s older brother, Tanner, also played tennis for USC and graduated in 2019.

Here’s more from the two-time All-American, who plans to play tennis professionally after his college career.

USC senior Riley Smith during the first round of play at the 2020 DI Men’s National Team Indoor Championships. (Photo by: Jacob Dye)

USTA.com: What does it mean to you to be named an ITA All-American your senior year?

Riley Smith: Being named an All-American is a cherry on top for me. The biggest part of playing at USC has always been the team success. Having such a great year as a team, winning National Indoors and finishing ranked No. 1 holds more weight to me. 

USTA.com: How did you find out the season was going to be cut short?

Riley Smith: Our whole team found out from something the NCAA posted online and, moments after, our coach confirmed it in a team meeting. 

USTA.com: What was your initial reaction, and how has your perspective changed since then?

Riley Smith: Initially I was more worried about getting home and making sure my family was safe. I was very sad that our season was ended and we didn’t get to finish out the great year we were having, but I knew this was bigger than sports. 

USTA.com: What moments or memories stand out from your college career?

Riley Smith: Winning Pac-12s, playing doubles with my brother, winning National Indoors and becoming an All-American my sophomore year really stand out to me.

USTA.com: Have you decided if you will return for a fifth year of competition, given the NCAA’s exception on eligibility? What went into your decision?

Riley Smith: I haven’t officially decided anything. There is a lot going into my decision, and I think time will tell what happens next and what opportunity presents itself. I want to do the best thing for me, not only for college athletics, but in life. 

Read the rest of Riley’s Q&A on USTA.com

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