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Oklahoma State basketball: Is Marcus Smart trying too hard?

In pressing to perform — to will his team to win — the Cowboys sophomore may be stressing himself and his team, contributing to a three-game losing streak that carries onto the road Saturday at Texas Tech, a game that suddenly looms as a crossroads contest for Oklahoma State.
by John Helsley Published: February 7, 2014


photo - Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart (33) walks off the court with his head down after being called for a foul during an NCAA college basketball game between Oklahoma State University (OSU) and Iowa State at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla., Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. Photo by KT King, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart (33) walks off the court with his head down after being called for a foul during an NCAA college basketball game between Oklahoma State University (OSU) and Iowa State at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla., Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. Photo by KT King, The Oklahoman

Perceptions of Smart aren't the only issue, or else his growing role as Public Enemy No. 1 wouldn't be a problem.

“It's a story because it's part of a larger narrative with him in that he's not playing well,” SI.com's Seth Davis said this week.

There's that, too. And it's not so much that Smart isn't playing well overall, as it is he's playing differently than when he dominated games a year ago. Before, he didn't care if he scored, focused instead on making everyone around him better. And when he did score, it was usually around the basket or at the foul line.

Now, after working on improving his perimeter game in the offseason, Smart's shot selection has become questionable. He's fired up 117 attempts from 3-point range, after trying 131 all last season. And he's rarely connecting, making 28.2 percent — 22 percent in Big 12 play. Over the past five games, four of those losses, Smart is 4-of-33 from long distance.

“And you hurt for the kid, because he's a super kid,” Davis said. “And he wants it so badly — you can see how badly he wants it. And it's messing with his mind.

“He's taking bad shots. He's forcing things. He's losing his composure.”

Ford says that Smart isn't being selfish, yet perhaps stubborn in his competitive push to lead this team, especially now that the team's identity is in transition with the injured Cobbins lost for the season.

“Sometimes you've just got to get back to the basics,” Ford said. “I think Marcus understands it. I don't think you can ever play too hard or try too hard. It's just always got to be channeled in the right way.”

Beyond shot selection, Smart's stat line still reads strong. He leads the Big 12 in steals (2.3) and ranks fourth in scoring (17.3), seventh in assists (4.4) and is averaging 5.7 rebounds.

Smart continues to impact games, playing hard at all times, especially as a dogged defender.

Still, he recognizes he can be better, whether in letting the flow of the game come to him on the offensive end or in fighting off frustrations created by other teams' tactics or a perceived lack of calls from officials.

“Sometimes, you have to take ‘I' out of the picture,” Smart said. “This is a team sport. If I'm not my best, how can my team be its best? I'm supposed to be one of the captains on the team. And I'm not at my best every day.

“And I hold myself accountable.”

by John Helsley
OSU Reporter Sr.
John Helsley grew up in Del City, reading all the newspapers and sports magazines he could get his hands on. And Saturday afternoons, when the Major League Game of the Week was on, he'd keep a scorecard for the game. So the sports appeal was was...
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