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Oklahoma State basketball: Move across DFW made a world of difference for Cowboys' Marcus Smart

by John Helsley Published: February 15, 2013

photo - COLLEGE BASKETBALL: OSU's  Marcus Smart poses for photos at Oklahoma State University at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Monday February  11, 2013. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: OSU's Marcus Smart poses for photos at Oklahoma State University at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Monday February 11, 2013. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

Marcus Smart has witnessed a lot in his 18 years.

Witnessed too much.

“I saw my friends doing all kinds of drugs. Snorting. Smoking. I didn't even know what it was,” Smart said. “Psycho-type stuff.

“I've seen people get jumped and beaten… shot.

“I've seen police chases every day.

“I've seen gang members drive through apartments, while little kids are in the street; don't give a care; little kids getting hit by cars.

“I saw my brother sell (drugs) to one of my friends.”

Then but a child on the battleground south side of Dallas, Smart also saw a beloved older brother die from cancer and saw his own future teetering; tilting at various moments between staying good or going bad, with one decision – conscious or unconscious – or maybe a misguided bullet perhaps all that stood as the tipping point.

That's when Camellia Smart flipped the scales.

Fed up and in growing fear of an increasingly dangerous neighborhood, Camellia, Marcus' mother, packed up the house for an escape.

It was bold and not without consequences, and only to the opposite outskirts of Dallas, the northwest suburb of Flower Mound.

Yet it might as well have been worlds away.

“The move was 100 percent,” Camellia said. “I saw gun shots, drugs, all the stuff that was coming in. I knew it was time to go. We couldn't stay there.

“You'd hear gunshots all through the night. You'd be in the bed asleep – gunshots. And a bullet doesn't have a name. A stray bullet does not have a name.

“I just didn't want him growing up around that.”

The rest of the story, the Marcus Smart success story, continues to play out on a stage that extends nationally.

Impact freshman at Oklahoma State. Physical, emotional and floor leader of the No. 17-ranked team in the country. Taking his Cowboys into a big Bedlam showdown on Saturday, with a six-game winning streak and a share of the Big 12 lead on the line.

It's a good story, made possible by Camellia Smart, the 58-year-old rock of the family.

“I thank God every day for giving my mom the strength and the confidence to move us,” Marcus said. “To just drop everything – that's where all my family was – to go to this place where we had no idea who anybody was or what to expect… she took a chance.

“That was a great chance she took.”


Lancaster, Texas, a city of 36,000-plus sits on the south side of Dallas County, near Cedar Hill and DeSoto and Duncanville.

Founded in 1852, the city was home to a Colt gun factory during the Civil War. And in 1934, Bonnie and Clyde robbed the R.P. Henry & Sons Bank, walking out with more than $4,000.

Things have gotten worse.

Way worse.

“You have bad parts, but you also have some good parts,” Marcus said. “You definitely have spots where it's just horrible out there. And those spots you don't want to be at.”

Spots where gangs and guns and Godlessness rules. Where lives are taken or tormented long-term.

Marcus saw it with his older brother Michael, who at 19 was sucked into all the trappings of the worst part of that neighborhood. Drugs, guns, prostitution – Michael got involved in it all, including the Bloods street gang.

“He fell victim to that,” Marcus said. “He'll tell you that he did some things that he regrets and wishes his life was different. He definitely ruined his life, not fully, but the best years of his life are gone, because of that life that he chose. He still feels it to this day.”

Only 10 at the time, Marcus looked out for his brother. Pleaded with his brother.

Also, as he got older, Marcus grew to understand his brother's plight.

“It's hard for teenage kids to have that maturity and step out and say, ‘I want to be different. I don't want to do what everybody else is doing,'” Marcus said. “Especially growing up in that kind of neighborhood, where if you don't, you're looked upon as weak or not a real friend.

“You want to be strong. You want to make something of your life. But it's hard for most teenagers to do, to make that evaluation and jump to being mature enough to say, ‘I'm not going to make that mistake. I'm going to be a leader. I'm not going to do what y'all are doing, I want you to do what I'm doing.'”

Marcus saw those same harsh elements around him, too.

Even at that young age, kids were falling into trouble, forming their own “little” gangs, sort of mirroring the older groups.

“They're going around throwing up gang signs, it's crazy,” Marcus said. “It's kind of weird, and it was very exasperating for me, because they were my friends, but I'm trying to embellish my life in a way that it is better than all of this.”

All that muck tugged at Marcus, too, testing his will and creating an inner rage that tore at him from deep inside.

He said that he could feel himself changing, becoming a bully even, getting into fights and other physical confrontations that unleashed his anger.

In a recent USA Today story, Marcus told of a time he and a friend threw rocks at a passerby on a bike, not knowing the subject was a member of the Bloods gang. Struck by a rock and falling from the bike, the man gave chase to the fleeing boys.

Soon, shots rang out and bullets buzzed all around.

Marcus said it was like that early scene in Saving Private Ryan, when the troops are being fired on while storming the beach at Normandy, except in real life.

“I definitely heard them whistling,” he said. “That sound, and when a gun fires how loud that is, it was a big shock to me. My heart felt like it was about to explode from my chest, literally running for my life.

“It's a terrifying scene to even imagine. But to be there, it's even more terrifying.”

Eluding the man on the wild chase that ensued, finally making it home, safely, Marcus said he reassessed where he was in his life.

Continue reading this story on the...

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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No. 17 Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma

* When: 12:45 p.m., Saturday

* Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater

* Radio: OSU KXXY-FM 96.1; OU KOKC-AM 1520

* TV: Big 12 Network (Cox 11 and 711 HD; Dish 34; DirectTV 34; U-Verse 34 and 1034 HD)


* The game is officially a sellout, OSU's second this season.

* OSU is 60-42 in Bedlam games inside Gallagher-Iba Arena and has won three straight in the series at home.

* The Sooners lost a key cog when guard Buddy Hield suffered a broken foot in Monday night's win over TCU. Hield scored 15 points and had four rebounds and four assists in OSU's win over the Cowboys in Norman.


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