Marcus Smart, Steven Pledger, Romero Osby

Marcus Smart announces he’ll be declaring for the 2014 Draft?

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Marcus Smart has declared for the 2014 NBA Draft.

Not officially, mind you.

It’s July. We still have more than 11 months until next year’s draft. NBA front office types are more concerned with their summer league rosters, who they’re inviting to training camp and whether or not they need to drop A-Rod off of their fantasy baseball team than worrying about who will and who won’t be in the 2014 NBA Draft.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Smart will be off to the NBA.

“It’s safe to say that if, by the grace of God I’m healthy and everything, this will be my last year at Oklahoma State,” Smart told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports after Team USA’s minicamp in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Smart is one of two collegians partaking in the event, along with Creighton’s Doug McDermott. “Nothing will change my mind on that. [Oklahoma State] understands. They didn’t figure I was coming back this year. They were just as surprised as everyone else.”

Smart is right; is was a massive surprise when he made the decision to return to school. But it was a refreshing decision, one that wasn’t rooted simply in chasing the money and had more to do with the fact that Smart simply wasn’t ready to deal with the rigors of being a professional. He wanted another year of being a college kid before after to deal with the real world.

Remember, a 15 year career will be much more lucrative than earning a couple of million bucks extra on your first contract but flaming out of the league in three years.

“You can only go to college and be a college athlete once,” he told Spears. “College is a great experience. This is where you have fun. This is where you find yourself as a young man and grow up into an adult before you enter the real world.

“The NBA is the real world. Everyone just sees the entertainment part, but there is a business part to it also.”

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.