SAN JOSE, Calif. — In a disheartened Oklahoma State postgame locker room, the ultracompetitive Marcus Smart seethed.
He labeled his performance ‘disappointing', called his team's lack of physicality ‘embarrassing' and honestly owned up to the Cowboys' disappointing 68-55 loss to Oregon, which prematurely ended his freshman season in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
But when focus expectedly shifted toward whether that defeat had also ended his career at Oklahoma State, Smart's answers went a bit cold.
“I don't know,” Smart said on multiple occasions, brushing off any talk of whether he would declare early for the NBA Draft.
“I have no idea. We just came off this loss. I'm going to get back home and go from there.”
But until that decision is made and announced, it'll remain the multimillion dollar question hovering over OSU's basketball program.
Widely considered a lottery lock, Smart has the chance to cash in big.
“He struggled today, but he's top 5. Crazy not to come out," Yahoo! Sports NBA Insider Marc Spears tweeted postgame, saying a league scout had told him that.
But those around the program insist it's not a done deal. Travis Ford even said the probability was “50/50 at this point.”
“It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Marcus wanted to come back,” Ford said. “Or if he left, it wouldn't surprise me.”
Ford said he would sit down with Smart and his family over the next week, after gathering pertinent information from league insiders, and discuss the pros and cons.
Underclassmen have until April 28 to declare for the June draft, but Smart's decision and announcement will likely come before that.
And he's not the only one to keep an eye on.
Although some may scoff, there's still a slight chance that either (both?) Markel Brown or Le'Bryan Nash also declare early.
Nash wouldn't commit to a return for his junior year, saying he must first research and discuss with his coaches and mother. But some of his other postgame comments clearly indicated the way in which he was leaning.
“We're going to have a better year next year, now that we've got this experience,” Nash said.
The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Nash has the prototypical pro body, but his stock has plummeted through two inconsistent seasons.
Markel Brown, on the other hand, has seen his rise, from relative unknown to fringe first-rounder. One online mock draft had him going as high as 23 recently.
But like Nash, Brown seemed to favor another year of grooming in Stillwater.
“I'd probably go if I was a guaranteed top-15,” Brown said. “Right now, I haven't been that high, so it's still up in the air. I feel like I'll come back.”
Either way, for all three, we should know in the coming weeks.
“It's all of their dreams to play in the NBA,” Ford said. “It's their dream, just like any Division I kid. If that time is now, then it is … We've got to do what's best for these kids.”