STILLWATER – Travis Ford remains committed to returning the rowdy to Gallagher-Iba Arena.
On the recruiting trail, the analysts say Ford is doing his part.
For the second straight year, the Oklahoma State coach signed an elite national recruit, landing five-star guard Marcus Smart as the centerpiece of a three-player class. ESPN.com ranks Smart, a 6-foot-4 combo guard from Flower Mound Marcus in Texas, as the No. 11 overall prospect and ranks OSU's 2012 class at No. 23 nationally.
Last year, the Cowboys signed Le'Bryan Nash, a consensus top-10 prospect ranked as high as No. 4 by some recruiting services.
Along with Smart, OSU also signed two three-star prospects: Smart's Marcus High teammate, 5-11 guard Phil Forte; and 6-8 power forward Kamari Murphy, a Brooklyn native playing at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
“We're very excited about all three,” Ford said. “They all really have distinctive individual skills, but they all have one thing in common: they're all high-character guys who love winning and are used to winning. And love to play the game.
“All three of them are gym rats who live in the gym. All three of these guys fit my personality.”
Smart draws high marks with analysts not only for his skills, but his demeanor.
In a signing day breakdown, ESPN.com senior basketball recruiting analyst Dave Telep listed Smart under the category of “Most underrated commitment.”
Wrote Telep: “He's the most mentally tough high school senior in America. We could do an hour-long TV show on his toughness and still run out of time. Travis Ford landed a strong McDonald's All-American candidate whose best friend, Forte, just happens to be a dead-eye 3-point shooter. Not too shabby.”
Telep's underrated tag was aimed more at the Cowboys than Smart, as the segment mentioned how schools like Kansas, North Carolina and Texas seemingly didn't take OSU's presence in his recruiting serious, until he was committed.
Ford on each of the signees:
Smart: “He plays at a level of energy that hasn't been matched by many I've seen. The ultimate competitor. I mean, he'll rip your heart out.”
Forte: “He's probably the premier shooter in the country.”
Murphy: “An ultra-athletic, 6-8 1/2 player with a high motor. And great upside.”