Marcus Smart, Steven Pledger, Romero Osby

If reports are true, good for Marcus Smart for returning to school

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In the most surprising NBA Draft decision this spring, Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart will announce that he is returning to school in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, according to Yahoo! Sports.

Smart was considered a lock for the lottery. Most NBA front office types looked at him as a lock for the top five. Draft Express has Smart going third in the draft. And he’ll be returning to school. This is, indeed, a shocker.

If true, it’s also sensational news for Oklahoma State fans. All of a sudden, the Cowboys, with Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown back in the fold as well, look like the preseason favorite to win the Big 12.

(CLICK HERE to follow along with who is turning pro and who is returning to school.)

You also won’t find me complaining. Smart is a terrific talent on both ends of the floor. He does all the things that make media-types cough up cliches like ‘plays the game the right way’ and ‘leader on the floor’ and ‘winner’. He is all of those things, and he’s also got enough potential to be deserving of that top five pick.

The best part? He’s a better kid off the floor than he is a player on it.

So no, I have no problem watching and covering Smart at the college level for one more season.

But that doesn’t mean that I understand the decision to pass up guaranteed millions to return to school. Look what happened with guys like Cody Zeller, James Michael McAdoo and Perry Jones III. They returned to school and had their games get picked apart by the critics. Perhaps the best example in regards to Smart is Jared Sullinger. Like Smart, Sullinger excelled because of his understanding of the game and excellence in the technical aspects of the sport, not simply because he’s got endless length, athleticism and potential.

Smart is a stocky-but-strong 6-foot-4 point guard that can’t really shoot. Does he have a position at the next level? Is he athletic enough to defend NBA guards? Does he have the kind of ball-handling ability to be a full-time point guard? These are questions that will be dissected over and over again for at least the next 14 months, when the 2014 NBA Draft takes place. That, alone, could end up dropping Smart down draft boards if he doesn’t show improvement in some of his weaker areas next season.

And that’s also before you factor in that the high school class of 2013 is producing a ton of talented NBA prospects. I find it incredibly unlikely that Smart would go top five next year, even if he does have a sensational sophomore season. That’s what happens when you’re looking at a draft class that includes Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and the Harrison twins.

Nerlens Noel is probably going No. 1 this year, but if Smart had gone No. 2 in this year’s draft, he would have made $8.1 million guaranteed in his first two years, with team options for $4.3 million in his third season and $5.5 million in his fourth season.

Look at the 2013-2014 rookie wage scale. The No. 6 pick makes $5.4 million in his first two seasons combined. The No. 10 pick makes $4.0 million.

So from a business and financial perspective, Smart probably isn’t making a smart decision. He could end up costing himself upwards of $10 million by staying in school. That’s an incredible amount of money, enough to keep many generations of Smarts housed and clothed and fed.

But life isn’t always about business and money and finances, and that’s the key thing to remember here. Marcus Smart’s life is about Marcus Smart pursuing what he loves and doing what makes him happy.

If Smart wants to spend another year as a college kid, if he wants to try to end Kansas’ nine-season streak of Big 12 titles and he wants to see if he can bring a Final Four banner to Gallagher-Iba Arena, than good for him. If he doesn’t think he’s ready, both from a maturity and/or a basketball perspective, to handle the rigors and the temptation of the NBA lifestyle, than good for him. A 15 year NBA career will be more lucrative than flaming out after that first contract.

So I’m happy for Smart and the decision that he has reportedly made.

It’s refreshing.

I’m glad that he’s following his heart instead of a dollar sign. I truly am.

And I’m glad that I’ll be able to watch him enjoy the decision that he made for another year.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

South Dakota State gets two commits

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Tuesday was a busy and productive one for South Dakota State on the recruiting trail.

The Jackrabbits secured two 2017 commitments from the state of Wisconsin in Ryan Krueger and Alex Arians, a source tells NBCSports.com.

Krueger is a 6-foot-5 wing player from New London, Wisc. while Arians is a 6-foot-4 guard from Madison, Wisc., who also held an offer from Wright State, which is coached by former SDSU coach Scott Nagy. Both players spend their summers playing for the Wisconsin Swing grassroots program.

The pair make it a trio of commits for the Jackrabbits in 2017 with another Wisconsinite, Alou Dillon, pledging to first-year Jackrabbits coach T.J. Otzelberger, himself a Wisconsin native, earlier this summer.

South Dakota State went 26-8 last year and the bulk of the team that made the NCAA tournament last year, including sophomore Mike Daum, who led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman.

Incoming Gator freshman ineligible for upcoming season

Mike White
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Florida will need to wait a year before seeing 6-foot-11 recruit Gorjok Gak playing games for the Gators.

The NCAA ruled that the incoming freshman will be able to enroll at Florida this year and practice with the team, but will be ineligible for games this season, the school announced Tuesday.

Should he meet all his progress marks during his freshman year, he’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2017-18.

Gak’s eligibility issue centered on his playing games during his postgraduate year at Victory Rock Prep, according to his coach there.

“Following his graduate year from Australia, he was supposed to play from December to December,” Loren Jackson told the Gainesville Sun, “but instead played from December until the following May.”

Gak originally signed with Oklahoma State, but de-committed following Travis Ford’s firing in Stillwater this past spring. Gak averaged 13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds last season at Victory Rock in Bradenton, Fla.

Florida went 21-15 last season under first-year coach Mike White.

Video: Coach K talks Team USA with Dan Patrick

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Team USA has blown through its competition in its first two exhibition games ahead of next month’s Olympics in Rio De Janeiro with wins over Argentina and China by a combined a combined 96 points.

Tonight, they’ll have a rematch against China, which they defeated 106-57 on Sunday, but it will also serve as the unofficial debut of Kevin Durant in front of his new hometown fans with the game taking place at the home of the Golden State Warriors, Oracle Arena, in Oakland.

“Excited for Kevin tonight to make his debut in front of the Golden State fans,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said Tuesday on the Dan Patrick Show. “He got a great reception (Monday) at a function. He was, as he should be, warmly welcomed.”

The team has been together since July 18 in the run-up to its first Olympic contest on Aug. 6 against China. For Krzyzewski, a couple of players have made an impression already.

“You see these guys on TV,” the Duke coach said, “but I don’t get a chance to see them in person. (Clipper) DeAndre Jordan is such a good player. A great athlete, a great guy. To see him run, defend, holy mackerel. He’ s really good.

“I haven’t seen Paul George in two years when he had that horrific (leg) injury in Las Vegas at one of our camps, and he’s so darn good. On defense, tremendous.”

It’s on the defensive side of the floor that Coach K believes his team can really make its mark even with the incredible collection of offensive talent the roster has.

“We’re very athletic so defensively we could be a very good defensive team,” he said. “We’ve shown a willingness to want to do that in the first two games.”

As usual, Team USA is the prohibitive favorite to bring back gold for the third consecutive Olympics, which will be Coach K’s last at the helm after taking over after the 2004 bronze medal debacle.

“I’m excited about the team,” he said. “It’s a short time. to see our guys working so hard and they get along so well, I’m excited about the team we might be in Rio. We’ll use tonight to get a little bit better.

“I kind of have the blinders on. You only have a short time. It’s a little over a month, and we want to win the gold medal in Rio.”

Rose’s transfer to BYU becomes official

Ge'Lawn Guyn, L.J. Rose
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His commitment came more than a month ago, but L.J. Rose’s transfer to BYU became official Tuesday.

The former Houston guard was officially announced as an immediately-eligible graduate transfer by BYU on Tuesday. He’ll bring much needed help to a Cougars backcourt that lost Kyle Collinsworth and Chase Fischer to graduation and Jordan Chatman and Jack Toolson to transfers.

“L.J. will add great experience and talent to our guard line,” BYU coach Dave Rose said in a statement released by BYU. “We’re excited about the leadership he will bring on the court and in the locker room. He will make us a deeper and more versatile team.”

As a junior, L.J. Rose averaged 9.8 points and 5.3 assists, but a foot injury limited him to just two games last season and allowed him to receive a medical redshirt and the opportunity to be a graduate transfer for his final collegiate season. He’ll be a big part of BYU’s attempt to build on last year’s 26-11 season as a former top-100 recruit, who began his career at Baylor, on a team in need of an infusion of talent after absorbing the losses from last year’s roster.

His father, Lynden, Sr., was a teammate of BYU coach Dave Rose at Houston during the program’s Phi Slama Jama era.

UCLA loses key forward to professional ranks

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 02:  Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks steals the ball from Jonah Bolden #43 of the UCLA Bruins during a 76-68 Ducks win at Pauley Pavilion on March 2, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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UCLA announced on Tuesday afternoon that Jonah Bolden will be forgoing his college eligibility to turn professional.

“Jonah Bolden has informed the coaching staff that he has opted to play professionally this season,” the release said.

Bolden is a versatile, 6-foot-10 forward with some NBA potential. In his only season playing with the Bruins, he averaged 4.6 points and 4.8 boards while starting 11 games. His ability on the defensive end of the floor was something the UCLA staff was counting on this season.

A sophomore this past season, Bolden was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA as a freshman, meaning that he was allowed to be on scholarship and in class but could not play during the 2014-15 season.

He had two seasons of eligibility remaining. Without Bolden, T.J Leaf will likely be counted on to play more minutes at the four.