Q&A With Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart
By all accounts, Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart had an off game Saturday afternoon against Texas Tech.
His final stat line certainly seemed to suggest as much. The freshman guard out of Flower Mound, Texas finished with three points on 1-for-6 shooting. He added five rebounds and two steals. He wasn’t (officially) credited with an assist and he committed three fouls. His point total was a season low, as were his 21 foul-plagued minutes.
But even in 21 “off” minutes, it was clear why Smart is said to be such a fit for the Thunder and a player the Thunder has shown significant interest in.
Smart, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound combo guard, easily could have padded his stats against the inferior Red Raiders. Instead, he chose to set the table for his teammates. Time and time and time again. Despite being the Cowboys’ best player and second leading scorer, Smart’s six shots were tied for fifth on the team Saturday. And he didn’t care one bit. He just kept swinging the ball, searching for a teammate’s next open shot and getting it to him on time and on target.
Equally impressive is how Smart never allowed his lack of scoring to negatively affect his desire to play defense. Throughout his time on the floor, he was a pest with his ball pressure, both in the halfcourt and in fullcourt presses. He also sacrificed himself for the good of the team. Smart’s second foul came as a result of sliding over to help a teammate who was beat off the dribble. As he positioned himself to take a charge, Smart was called for a blocking foul that forced him to sit the final 12 minutes of the first half.
Smart’s unselfishness didn’t do him any favors in the stat sheet. But when he was on the floor, he controlled every aspect of the game. Couple that with how he captained his team — pulling his players in for each dead ball huddle, shouting instructions from the bench during his foul-induced bench stint — and it became evident that Smart is a natural born leader.
In a Q&A with The Oklahoman following the game, Smart talked about today’s performance, the type of player he prides himself on being and how he sees himself fitting in at the NBA level.
Q: You justscored three points in a game that you probably easily could have had 30. Why was that?
A: You just have nights like that, when other guys are on. I mean, we had guys like Markel Brown and Philip Forte that were hot. Phil ended the game with 19. Markel ended with 21. So, I mean, I really didn’t have to do much because they were taking a lot of the load that I probably could have tried to take but they were taking the load. And they were on so, the game of basketball if a guy’s hot don’t shy away from him. That’s kind of our team motto. You can always do greater things if you don’t care who gets the credit. That’s a little John Wooden. I misworded that (laughs), but it’s the same scenario. But we kind of don’t really care who gets the credit. Like I said, they were hot and I wasn’t and I applaud them guys. They had a great game.
Q: You seem to really personify that mentality in your play. Do you feel like as a leader if you embody that then the rest of the team has to follow you?
A: Oh, definitely. Exactly. One of the leaders on this team, this team is going to follow you. So if I look at it that way and Markel looks at it that way then all these other guys, especially the older guys who have been here, these younger guys and me we’re going to follow us and it’s just going to make our team so much better.
Q: The unselfishness you showed on the court today, have you always played like that?
A: Oh, definitely. I’ve always had players (on my team) that I wasn’t always one of the best players out there. I also surrounded myself with good players so, I mean, I didn’t have to do so much work. That’s kind of how I’ve always been and how I’ve always played. Like I said, we have a great amount of talent here. I don’t have to go out there and score 30 points a night because we have other players that can contribute in other ways and I just try to find them when they’re hot.
Q: Coach Travis Ford has raved about your leadership. How do you view yourself as a leader?
A: That’s kind of what I pride myself on. I’m a competitor. I love to play. So I’m always looking for an edge or what I can do to make my team better. If that means I got to communicate more, speak up, call out what the defense is doing, then that’s what I’m going to do. Like I said, I really don’t care who scores as long as my team is winning. I think that’s one of the biggest attributes of being a leader. You really don’t care who gets the credit as long as the team is doing well. That’s just who I am.
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