The Devon Energy College Basketball Awards program continues to grow, both in size and scope and as a classy and quality event. And there’s no slowing down, with talk of one of the major networks potentially joining on to televise the festivities, possibly as soon as next year.
Monday’s latest gathering continued to reveal a fresh shine with a heavy-hitting list of award winners, all on hand: Michigan’s Trey Burke, the Oscar Robertson Player of the Year (Robertson was there to present, too); Miami’s Jim Larranaga, the Henry Iba Coach of the Year; Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, the Wayman Tisdale Humanitarian Award winner.
Locally, however, the spotlight was on the Wayman Tisdale Award winner, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart. And the major focus wasn’t so much on Smart as national freshman of the year, but whether Smart will have a sophomore season.
The Cowboys standout confirmed what insiders have been saying since OSU’s season ended in an NCAA Tournament loss to Oregon: he’s conflicted and stressed and going back and forth on a decision that “gets harder and harder every day.”
But if Smart should decide to retutrn to the Cowboys, might Izzo deserve an assist in the decision making process?
As the two crossed paths Monday night at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Izzo told Smart: “Player of the year Trey Burke told me the best decision he ever made was coming back for another year!”
Indeed, Burke told reporters pretty much the same thing before the banquet, although he allowed that the decision is different for everyone. Burke’s draft stock was not quite to the height of Smart’s, which projects as top-5, maybe even No. 1.
Still, Burke talked about things that are definitely on the OSU side of the ledger when weighing the two options.
“I think I was able to come back, mature for another year, grow mentally and physically,” Burke said. “And I was able to come back and be more of a leader, really.
“Going back to school, the whole college experience, that was something I needed again. I wanted to come back and still be a kid again. I think that’s allowed me to grow up as well.”
Burke was able to win big, too, with a run to the Final Four, followed by his national player of the year recognition.
Izzo noted that with reporters.
“He came back and got to go to a Final Four. That’s something a lot of guys will never get to do,” Izzo said. “There’s a lot of players who were good enough, but just because they decided to leave early… I don’t criticize them for wanting to make money either.
“That’s a good politician’s answer.”
Izzo said he saw Smart on TV, and liked what he saw.
“He’s the kind of guy I love,” Izzo said. “He’s like a linebacker in a basketball uniform.
“There’s not a lot of guys that I think play both ends and are as physically gifted as he is. That part of him, on the tube anyway, looked pretty impressive. I’m glad we didn’t have to face him.”
Maybe, however, there’s still a chance. And maybe Izzo will have a hand in it.