STILLWATER — D-Day looms for Marcus Smart.
And while most assume the Oklahoma State freshman's jump into the NBA Draft to be a foregone conclusion, those in the know say the appeal of one more year at OSU is tugging at him, too.
The good news for Smart: there is no wrong decision, because it's his decision. Still, a difficult decision.
“It's a great problem to have,” said Phil Forte Sr., the father of Smart's teammate Phil Forte and a family friend familiar with the options Smart is carefully weighing.
Very soon, perhaps Friday, Smart and his family and Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford will sit down and discuss the player's future.
They'll address the pros and cons of Smart's staying and going. There will be questions and answers. There will be emotions.
And eventually there will be a decision. Either return for one more run with his 'Boys, or get on with the next stage of his career in the NBA.
“It's exciting,” Ford said a few weeks ago. “Either way, it's going to be exciting. I've had good friends in the profession call and tell me I'm going to be so happy either way.”
Many would argue there's only one logical verdict, considering the lofty draft projections attached to Smart, which suggest he'll go high, perhaps even No. 1 if Orlando or New Orleans win the lottery. With that comes status and prestige and guaranteed millions — upward of $10 million over two years for last year's top pick, Kentucky's Anthony Davis.
So, how do you pass that up?
What a lofty draft status and big paycheck do not guarantee: success or opportunity.
Some of last year's top picks have struggled not only to perform, but to just get playing time.
Former Kansas star Thomas Robinson, the 2012 Big 12 Player of the Year and a consensus All-American — like Smart — has already been traded this season and is averaging 4.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 14 minutes off the bench with the Houston Rockets. He was taken fifth overall last year by the Sacramento Kings.
North Carolina's Kendall Marshall, taken at No. 13 and seen as the heir apparent to Steve Nash in Phoenix? Barely plays. UConn's Jeremy Lamb, taken at No. 12, eventually landed with a good team, traded from Houston to Oklahoma City in the James Harden deal. The reward: a shuttle to the D-League in Tulsa.
How do those examples relate to Smart? By comparison, last year's draft class is considered significantly stronger than the 2013 pool, perhaps artificially inflating the value of those pegged for the top.
One Eastern Conference executive told The Oklahoman that “Smart could probably benefit from another year in college. He's not yet polished as a point guard.”
Smart's first season at OSU was his first as a full-time point guard. There's no doubting his impact as a player and a leader, as he transformed the culture with the Cowboys, led them in scoring, led them to 24 wins and led them back to the NCAA Tournament.
Still, he shot just 40.4 percent from the floor, 29 percent from 3-point range and had 111 turnovers to go with his 139 assists. So there's room for improvement.
Blake Griffin is on record professing the benefits of a second year in school for any player. Griffin would have been a lottery pick in 2008, after his freshman year at Oklahoma. Instead, he returned, led the Sooners to the Elite Eight and won all six of the National Player of the Year awards on his way to being the No. 1 pick in '09.
“It was one of the best decisions I ever made,” Griffin told CBSSports.com recently. “It enabled me to mature and get better as a basketball player.
“If I came out after my freshman season, it would have been a different story.”
As for the money, Griffin said: “Everyone's in kids' ears for a payday. The chance to get paid and take care of your family … But it's about being ready, not necessarily about taking that big payday right away, but giving it time.
“You might drop a few spots, but you might end up with a team that's a better fit — and end up making more money in the long run.”
The Cowboys, like those Sooners, are set up to win next season; perhaps win big if Smart returns.
With him — maybe even without him — OSU looks like the clear Big 12 favorite and a top-10 team nationally.
Coming back would also allow the highly competitive Smart an opportunity to erase the bad feelings from the Cowboys' sudden NCAA Tournament loss to Oregon. Those around the program say that disappointing ending ate at him for days and even drove him to lean toward a return, although the allure of the NBA has since balanced that out.
On a personal level, Smart enjoys his teammates.
“We're a brotherhood,” he said.
He and Forte have been friends and teammates since the third grade. They are roommates at OSU.
Smart enjoys doing what college kids do. And he enjoys the college experience, even classes. There's something, too, about being the BMOC.
“Marcus and Phil, wherever they go on campus, to frat parties and other places,” the elder Forte said, “the kids start chanting: ‘One more year!'
“They don't do that in the NBA. They don't rush the court in the NBA.”
Smart is still a teenager, just turning 19 last month. After a stress-filled and difficult childhood spent in South Dallas, those around him report that this has been among the happiest years of his life.
Will that continue in Orlando or Charlotte or New Orleans or Phoenix, where they currently lose twice as many games as they win?
D-Day looms for Marcus Smart, with an official announcement likely coming Tuesday or Wednesday, following the Final Four.
The good news for Smart: there is no wrong decision, because it's his decision.
Still, a difficult decision.