Before Big 12 Men's Basketball Media Day ever arrived, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart livened up the gathering with his take on the hype attached to Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins.
The nation's No. 1 recruit, Wiggins has been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and propped up alongside former KU great Wilt Chamberlain. By today's standard, he's been compared to LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
So in a weekend story in USA Today, Smart made headlines by questioning how so much attention and praise could be heaped on a player who hadn't played a college game yet.
And Tuesday, when hit up again with questions about Wiggins, Smart didn't change his tune.
“I'm just saying, ‘How can you be the best player at something you haven't even played yet?'” Smart said to reporters at the Sprint Center. “I'm not saying he's not. I'm not saying he can't be. I'm saying if it was me, don't just give it to me. At least let me earn it.
“It's good for him. All congratulations. Don't get me wrong, I'm not taking anything from Andrew Wiggins. Nothing like that. Good player. Congratulations to him. Hope he does well in the future. But like I'm saying, he puts his shorts on one leg at a time like me.”
Then, as if fans aren't already anticipating the two showdowns between the Cowboys and Jayhawks, Smart stoked those matchups even more.
“If he's the best player, as people say, then if that's the case, then for me to be the best, I have to play the best, right?” Smart said.
“So if he's the best player, then the fans will get their money's worth when we play Kansas.”
KRUGER: COUSINS ROLE SHIFTS
After playing mostly point guard as a freshman, sophomore guard Isaiah Cousins' role will shift this season.
“Isaiah will play a total different role in moving to the wing,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. “Last year, we saddled him a little bit with trying to be a point guard. Little unfair to him, but we just needed some help in that area.
“He worked at it, but (he's) much more comfortable moving to the wing, running the floor, looking to be more of a scorer, attacking off the dribble much more.”
Kruger said Je'lon Hornbeak will play the point guard at times.
Both Hornbeak and fellow sophomore Buddy Hield underwent offseason surgery on their feet, and both have been cleared to return to practice fully.
Hield reinjured his foot just before the team's trip to Belgium and France in August, while Hornbeak was injured on the trip.
JAYHAWKS STILL THE FOCUS
When you win nine straight Big 12 championships, as Kansas has done, there's a reputation that goes with it, like the heavyweight boxing champ who must be knocked out to be dethroned.
OSU was installed as a conference cofavorite in a vote of the league's coaches, yet Cowboys coach Travis Ford said KU sets the standard.
“We fully grasp that Kansas is still the team to beat,” Ford said. “I think any coach would tell you that. They're still the team in the Big 12 that everybody's trying to compete with.”
Jayhawks coach Bill Self has reloaded with a touted recruiting class led by Wiggins. And while Self suggested his young squad could “take some knocks early,” he also said it could be great by March.
“Certainly I think there is as much anticipation in our group as what we've had in just about any time that I've been there,” Self said. “So should be a lot of fun, and a time that we're very much looking forward to.”
BENNETT COULD MISS EXHIBITIONS
Redshirt junior forward D.J. Bennett could miss the Sooners' two exhibition games after suffering a slightly torn tendon in his foot last week, but Kruger said he expected Bennett to return in time for the season opener against Alabama on Nov. 8 in Dallas.
“At first we feared it might be a longer deal until we got the MRI back,” Kruger said. “A full tendon tear is a year, so we were relieved to see it wasn't that. Now, he's responding pretty well, I don't know if that means he'll play in that second exhibition game or come back for Alabama.”
Bennett is wearing a boot, much like Hornbeak and Hield did over the offseason.
“We need to burn those boots,” Kruger said.
MARKEL BROWN: NO MORE STORMING THE COURT
OSU's Markel Brown is laying down the law for Cowboys fans.
“There's no more storming the court anymore,” said the senior guard.
Brown still wants the rowdy and urges followers to celebrate games inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. But when the Cowboys win — against anybody — keep it cool.
“It's expected of us to win. To win a lot of games,” Brown said. “And being ranked so high comes with that. Storming the court is fun and all, but now we're capable of winning big games and that's what we should go out and do.”
HENSON INDUCTED INTO HALL
Oklahoma assistant coach Steve Henson was recently inducted into the Kansas State Athletics Hall of Fame.
Kruger, also a former Wildcats standout, returned to Manhattan, Kan., with Henson for the induction.
“Really proud for him,” Kruger said. “He'd really worked so hard and he's so unselfish and so much about team. He's invested so much and he's deserved and earned everything that he accomplished. For that recognition, it was nice for him to be able to share that with him and his family.”
Henson played for Kruger at Kansas State from 1987-90, twice earning honorable mention All-American honors and playing in four NCAA Tournaments.
TCU coach Trent Johnson, on the basis for his optimism for improvement: “My optimism is based off the facts, and the facts are you should shoot the ball better and play at a faster tempo. I understand our scrimmage last year at this time — scoreless with six minutes to go. This year 65-59. So I shut it down with about seven minutes left.”