STILLWATER — Ranking college basketball's top 25 freshmen so far, John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus eventually got around to Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart.
At No. 14.
Immediately, the argument was on. Not from Smart or Cowboys coach Travis Ford, but from Sporting News' national hoops writer, Mike DeCourcy.
In a story reviewing college basketball's first month of play — and featuring Smart among the highlights — DeCourcy popped SN's own season preview magazine for not including Smart on one of its three All-America teams, while clearly popping Gasaway for his ranking of Smart.
“That still puts us far ahead of one person who,” DeCourcy wrote, “with a number of games passed, ranked Smart as the No. 14 freshman in the nation.
“No. 14! Among freshmen!
“People, Marcus Smart has been the best college player in the nation to this point.”
Plenty of time remains in this season to settle such a discussion, but Smart's impact on the Cowboys is undeniable. A much-needed glue guy for a talented team previously lacking on-floor direction, Smart has elevated OSU's play and its profile, with the team currently 7-1 and ranked No. 24.
Smart has delivered talent and production, yes, but also grit and toughness and leadership that is transforming the face of the Cowboys.
“That's who I am,” Smart said. “I think everybody on the team sees that. I don't have to try and implement that in everybody else. As long as I go out there and show that this is how I play, this is how we should play, then they'll follow me.”
That's not Smart being cocky, that's just Smart being what this team needs. And his teammates embrace him and his persona.