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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Marcus Smart to Return to Stillwater

In a weak draft like the one expected this season, the decision to take the easy money has been, well, easy for some guys. Basically every fringe first rounder has put their name into the draft so far, including all of the lottery guys.

That is, except for Marcus Smart.

Earlier tonight, Chad Ford reported that Smart would be holding a press conference tomorrow during lunch time in the student union area. Lots of Oklahoma State students would be present, so there quickly became some hope for fans that maybe he would defy logic and come back next season. Certainly he wouldn't pull a LeBron James and hold a press conference in front of his fellow students, only to end it by ripping their hearts out...right?

It wasn't long after that thought that Adrian Wojnarowski, the king of sources, had the official scoop that Smart indeed was going to opt for a second year at Stillwater. And when Wojnarowski reports it, it might as well be fact.

Smart's decision has already been subjected to much criticism and he's likely to hear more throughout next season. The general thinking is - weak draft, guaranteed top 5 pick, potentially a historically strong draft next season - he would be stupid to risk it all for another year in college.

But ultimately it is Smart's decision to be made and as long as he made an informed decision, I have no problem with it. This decision is a little look into just how different Smart is. He's special. Smart isn't a guy who is going to worry about his draft stock. He's confident in his abilities. What he wants to do is win. And he's done that at every level up until college and I imagine after the loss against Oregon he felt he had some unfinished business to take care of.

Maybe it just wasn't natural for Smart to spend a season with a team and leave after not accomplishing anything. He has multiple HS championships, AAU banners, and even lead U18 USA Team to a victory in the FIBA Americas last summer. Returning to school, likely as the Big 12 favorites, Smart will have one thing in mind and it sure won't be how is draft stock is looking. He'll be looking to win a NCAA title.

This decision also put Smart in a position where he would leave his best friend, longtime teammate, and practically brother - Phil Forte behind. Smart grew up with his family and the thought of abandoning Forte after one year may have not sat well with him. Knowing the kind of player and point guard Smart is, he may not feel his job is done as a leader until he elevates both of them to professional prospects.

Smart also sat in on the USBWA awards dinner on Monday and listened to Tom Izzo talk about how much Trey Burke improved between his freshman and sophomore years. ESPN's Fran Fraschilla said he was "all ears".

Whether or not Smart's draft stock remains as a top 5 pick next year is certainly debatable. He has holes in his game that could be exposed farther the same way Sullinger, McAdoo, Willie Warren, Zeller, and others fell victim to in recent years. But there is more to a player's life than where he gets picked. All we know about player's are their basketball lives, but there are other factors. And as far as I'm concerned, experiences are greater than 3-5 pick difference in the NBA Draft. College life only comes around once.

And if Smart ends up a good NBA player - which as a player, there should be no other thought than that - then a couple years from now, nobody will even talk about this decision. And if he is terrible and flames out of the league in a few years, at least he will have some more memories in college to fall back on.

In the end, Smart is a competitor and its hard to ask him to be competitive, but at the same time consider the fact of failing by coming back a season. If Smart did that, Marcus Smart wouldn't be Marcus Smart. Part of what makes Smart great is his competitiveness, confidence, and intangibles. You can't just ask him to change his way of thinking. It why he is a great athlete and we all are just commenting on his decision - different mind sets.

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