Oklahoma State's near future hinges for the first time in, well … ever on the decision of multiple pro prospects.
The Cowboys have had underclassmen ponder jumps to the NBA before. Most recently James Anderson, who skipped his senior season to enter the draft in 2010. JamesOn Curry jumped too, albeit unwisely.
Both left voids, with Anderson's early exit followed by a two-year NCAA Tournament drought.
Yet OSU's current situation is unique, with Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash all considering their professional options. And their decisions figure to heavily impact the Cowboys' outlook for 2013-14.
If all hands are on deck, which appears a long shot considering Smart's lofty draft projections — as high as No. 2 overall — OSU enters next season as the definitive Big 12 favorite and a legitimate Final Four contender.
If all go, a rebuild is in order.
Something in between offers something different still, with the various scenarios offering multiple other forecasts.
So clearly, OSU's drama didn't end with Thursday's loss to Oregon.
“If we all do come back,” Nash said, “it'll be scary.”
After the NCAA setback, Nash seemed pretty intent on returning. And it makes sense, as he's currently listed no better than a second-round pick in the draft.
A sophomore, Nash talked about the strong nucleus that returns regardless of the possible pro defections, plus another strong recruiting class.
“Hopefully we'll get another season like we had this year, but with a different outcome,” he said.
Brown put the top 15 of the draft as his target for leaving. And currently, he's outside of that range, although his stock has been on the rise.
Smart's status carries the most weight. The Big 12 Player of the Year as a freshman, Smart is a game-changer of the highest regard, delivering production and intangibles. Most players in his position wouldn't hesitate in declaring for the NBA.
But Smart is different in so many ways. And his decision may turn out different, too.
“There's a lot of variables that will play a role in that decision,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford. “There's a lot of variables with him.”
Beyond the Big Three, the Cowboys return bankable pieces in Michael Cobbins, Brian Williams and Phil Forte, as well as Kamari Murphy, Kirby Gardner and Marek Soucek. Jéan-Paul Olukemi's status remains up in the air.
And help is on the way, with elite recruits and scoring guards in Stevie Clark, Detrick Mostella and Jeffrey Carroll, a center in junior college transfer Gary Gaskins and athletic forward Leyton Hammonds.
“I feel like we're going to have a better year next year,” Nash said. “We'll have experienced guys and we'll have freshmen we need to show the ropes. This goes out to all Oklahoma State fans — we're going to have a better year next year. Be excited for next year.”