By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com – @anthonyVslater
The hype surrounding Marcus Smart continues to build.
His stock has been on a constant rise since early in his high school career. But less than a month from his college debut, the nationwide respect and admiration for Oklahoma State’s five-star freshman is starting to shine through.
Last week, Big 12 coaches named him the preseason Freshman of the Year and Sporting News pegged him as a Freshman All-American.
On Monday afternoon, CBSSports.com came out with a comprehensive college basketball season preview and Smart was all over it.
The highly-respected website labeled him as the 19th best player in the country (regardless of class). He was the second-best Big 12 player, behind Kansas’ Jeff Withey (#18).
“Put simply, Smart will do whatever it takes to help his team get a win. He is not a natural point guard, but don’t be surprised if he runs the show for the Cowboys. The kid is a born leader,” CBS writer Jeff Borzello wrote about him.
The website also put Smart on its All-Freshman First Team and All-American fourth team. Here’s the two separate explanations:
“I’m not sure if he’s a point guard or a two-guard, but the kid is just a flat-out player — and he wins. Smart is a tremendous athlete who plays every possession as if it’s his last. He rebounds well, scores when necessary and is capable of running the team — which he’ll do this year for Travis Ford in Stillwater.”
“Smart was the leader and star of USA Basketball’s U-18 team that won a gold medal this summer. He’ll play point guard at Oklahoma State and be the reason for the Cowboys’ return to the NCAA Tournament.”
Another Cowboy, Le’Bryan Nash, also received some recognition.
In that same list of the nation’s top 100 players (where Smart was 19th), Nash was labeled the 24th best player, making him the site’s fourth best Big 12 player (behind Withey, Smart and Baylor’s Pierre Jackson).
“Undeniably talented, but if he had a more consistent shot and really mean streak, he’d be a borderline top-10 player on this list. If he puts up more than 15 points per game this year he’s gotta be gone,” CBS writer Matt Norlander wrote.
What it means, in the grand scheme, is essentially nothing. Preseason lists stop mattering when the first game is tipped.
But by the day, it’s becoming more clear this Oklahoma State team will have more pure talent (and expectations) than any from the Travis Ford era. What he does with it remains to be seen.