The process of deciding whether or not to return to school for another year can be a tough one, especially when the player making the decision is projected to be a high lottery pick.
That was the case for Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart, who many expected to be the first guard taken in next Thursday’s NBA Draft had he made the decision to leave Stillwater.
However there were two factors that ultimately led to Smart deciding to return for his sophomore season: an injury to his right wrist and the way in which the Cowboys’ season ended. In a story done by Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News, Smart discussed the NCAA tournament loss to Oregon as well as how tough (and emotional) the decision-making process proved to be.
“It took me a long time. I actually cried about it. It’s a hard decision for an 18-year-old kid, seeing that much money thrown at him, able to turn it down,” Smart told Sporting News. “It’s unthinkable. It’s unheard of. Nobody’s ever done that: a top-five draft pick turning that much money down, guaranteed, to come back to school for another year.”
Smart is one of 12 players selected to play for the United States Under-19 Team, which begins play in the U-19 FIBA World Championships next Thursday against Ivory Coast. The hope for Smart and Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford is that the time spent with USA Basketball will serve as a catalyst for an even better sophomore season.
Smart won Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors in 2012-13, as he posted averages of 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. Oklahoma State finished the season with a 24-9 record (13-5 Big 12), a year that included a Puerto Rico Tip-Off title and the program’s first win at Allen Fieldhouse since 1990. But it’s that 65-53 loss to Oregon that sticks with Smart.
“I just feel like I couldn’t leave them on the note we ended on, losing to Oregon in the round (of 64),” Smart said. “We weren’t playing our best ball at the time. I felt like I didn’t do enough to help my team at the time. I just feel like I left my teammates down.”
What can Smart (and his teammates) do for an encore in 2013-14? Oklahoma State is expected to contend for a Big 12 title along with Kansas (which has won or shared the last nine regular season titles) and Baylor, and the Cowboys certainly have the pieces needed to make good on the preseason expectations.
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.