Big 12 will feel wrath of ‘Smart’ decision

Big 12 will feel wrath of ‘Smart’ decision
April 18, 2013, 8:00 am
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The heart and soul of Oklahoma State’s basketball team has decided to buck the trend and shock the college basketball world.

Marcus Smart, the team’s leading scorer and one of the top freshmen in the country, announced that he would put off entering the NBA for at least a year and return to college.

To put it simply, Smart’s choice to come back to Stillwater is unexpected. He was considered by some to be the top point guard prospect in the draft and was a lock to be a top-five pick.

There is very little precedent for a player making a decision of this magnitude and knowingly leaving millions of dollars on the table to essentially play for room and board.

Oklahoma’s star power forward, Blake Griffin, made a similar decision after his freshman year that eventually led to him being taken first overall in 2009 after his sophomore season.  

However, even Griffin was not the top-5 lock his first time around. Smart would have been this year. And yet, while it has been met with amazement and confusion, Smart’s decision is just that: a smart one.

Cut from a different cloth than many of the one-and-done players in today’s college basketball, it is clear that he genuinely enjoys all that the college experience has to offer. In his mind, the NBA and the money will be there when he decides he is ready.

In the meantime, Smart and the Cowboys have now become the favorites to win the Big-12 next season. Bill Self and Kansas have had a grip on the top spot in the conference for much of the past decade, but the core of the Jayhawks’ roster has been gutted by graduation and early departures.

Baylor could certainly play the role of contender, especially if both Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin return to Waco. Pierre Jackson has exhausted his eligibility though, and there is not a guard in the conference that can match up with Smart.

Joining Smart back at Oklahoma State are his two running mates on the wings in LeBryan Nash and Markel Brown. Scrappy sharpshooter Phil Ford and shot blocker Michael Cobbins are also returning.  

Just to recap: the Cowboys bring back their five key contributors from a team that won 24 games and finished third in the conference. They also boast a top-25 recruiting class with two top-100 prospects.  

That is something that will give Big-12 opponents many a nightmare in the coming months.

As for Smart, he will enter the year headlining every mock all-American list and will garner votes for pre-season Big-12 and National Player of the Year.

The NBA will come calling for him soon enough, and with it will come the millions of dollars he admirably chose to turn down. Until then, Oklahoma State is the “Smart” pick to win the Big-12 and possibly make a run to Cowboys Stadium … the host of next season’s Final Four.