STILLWATER – Marcus Smart continues to maintain no regrets in returning to Oklahoma State for a sophomore season.
Now, some of what transpired after his return… yeah, maybe some of that could have gone differently.
Smart officially announced his decision to enter the NBA Draft in a reflective and candid one-on-one interview with The Oklahoman on Monday. While he insisted that he made the right decision to play with the Cowboys a second year, saying he gained life lessons and enjoyed extending relationships, Smart also lamented not staying true to himself and his game.
“A lot of times this year, I got caught up trying to be what people wanted me to be, you might say, instead of just being who I am,” Smart said. “Instead of just going out and playing basketball.”
After a freshman season that saw him hailed as Big 12 Player of the Year and an All-American, high praise poured in for Smart. And for the first time, he admitted it might have gone to his head, turning him into something he never intended to be.
“A one-man-show-type deal,” Smart said. “And it wasn’t in a selfish way, it’s just the fierce competitor who wills his team. When his team is struggling, he comes and saves the day.
“In reality, I had other guys that could step up and do it. And those guys really stepped up in key moments. So it wasn’t Marcus Smart comes and saves the day.”
Coaches who have long complimented Smart — Florida’s Billy Donovan, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, VCU’s Shaka Smart and others who have worked with him with USA Basketball — always touted his unselfishness, regularly found in stat sheets that featured an array of assists, steals, rebounds and points.
That complete package defined Smart as a freshman, but at times went missing this season. There were games when Smart forced perimeter shots and, now admittedly, tried to do too much.
“It was more self-inflicted than anything else,” he said. “I put so much pressure on myself to fulfill the goals that I wanted, instead of just letting my team help me a lot. It hurt us in some games.
“And that’s the beauty of having a team. That’s what they’re there for, especially this team. They helped me through a lot of things that went on and went wrong, or went right.
“They were always there, no matter what. That’s the definition of a team. No matter the outcome or the situation, they’re always going to be there and have your back.”
Despite all that, and his own inconsistent season, Smart appeared rested and relaxed and fully committed in saying he found growth in his final season at OSU.
It was last March when he, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash addressed an overflow crowd at the OSU Student Union, revealing their decisions to come back for a united run at a special season.
High expectations crested with a strong start and a No. 5 national ranking, before multiple factors led to a fast fade that at one point included a seven-game losing streak, a three-game suspension for Smart for shoving a Texas Tech fan and – after a rally into the NCAA Tournament – another one-and-done postseason stint.