STILLWATER — The pleas went out Wednesday night on Twitter, from adoring Cowboys fans to Marcus Smart. And the message is sure to spread, growing from singular appeals to a unified roar inside Gallagher-Iba Arena with just two home games remaining.
“One more year! One more year!”
Smart's stock as an eventual pro continues to soar, with some NBA Draft analysts suggesting he could even go No. 1 overall if he decides to become a one-and-done player and enter the Draft in July.
So, the Oklahoma State freshman will soon face the decision: stay or go.
On the surface, or in the hands of most elite prospects in the same spot, it's a decision that seems so simple.
Take the money.
Seek the fame.
Play at the highest level.
Ah, yet nothing about Smart and his past, present or future is simple. He's a complex young man, with complex thoughts and plans.
“I'm not one of those guys who comes in and that's all I'm focused on, that's what I want to do,” Smart said. “Whatever happens, happens. I'm not forcing the issue. I'm letting it come to me.
“You've got some guys, that's all they want and that's all that's on their mind. ‘I'm going to the league. I'm going to the league.' That's what they're focused on.
“I'm really focused on my team and the rest of the season right now.”
And if you've seen him play, with a relentless passion for every minute he's on the floor, you know that's true. He's bound to be on the floor Saturday, diving and scrambling for loose balls when Texas visits Gallagher-Iba Arena for a 3 p.m. tip.
Sure, there's much to like about making millions and joining the fraternity of LeBron James and Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.
And yet, as Blake Griffin told CBSSports college basketball insider Jeff Goodman recently, all that can wait.
“I felt like staying another year was the right move for me,” Griffin said. “It was one of the best decisions I ever made. It enabled me to mature and get better as a basketball player.
“If I came out after my freshman season, it would have been a different story.”
Griffin would have been a lottery pick following his freshman year at Oklahoma. But he returned for another year and reaped a bounty of awards — and fun, an oft-forgotten advantage the college game offers over the pros — as the Sooners rolled to the Elite Eight and Griffin nabbed Big 12 and multiple national Player of the Year honors, including the John R. Wooden, Oscar Robertson, Adolph Rupp, Naismith, NABC and Associated Press.
And the pro thing worked out for Griffin, too, as he went No. 1 overall following his sophomore season and has ascended to superstar status in the NBA as an annual All-Star.
“Everyone's in kids' ears for a payday,” Griffin said. “The chance to get paid and take care of your family … But it's about being ready, not necessarily about taking that big payday right away, but giving it time.
“You might drop a few spots, but you might end up with a team that's a better fit — and end up making more money in the long run.”
Does Griffin's path benefit Smart similarly?
One NBA executive said Smart projects as strictly a point guard as a pro. And while that's the position he's playing with the Cowboys — and playing it well — this is his first season as a full-time point guard. And sometimes it shows.
“Smart is not a clean ballhandler as he turns it over a lot,” said CBS analyst and former Cowboy Doug Gottlieb, “and while he is an improving shooter, that truthfully is not his game. Smart just makes plays.”
Gottlieb suggests that Smart may be better served coming off the bench initially, although there are other opinions that he's ready now.
“Marcus Smart is the only current college basketball player who could start in the NBA right now,” said ESPN analyst and former Duke point guard Jay Williams.
In another season at OSU, Smart could continue to work on his point skills, smoothing out any flaws and working on developing a more consistent shot, with a confidence that may not come so easily against NBA defenders.
And there's the fun aspect. Smart has developed strong relationships and chemistry with his teammates. He's also sharing these moments with his best friend, roommate and teammate since the third grade, fellow freshman Phil Forte.
And if he returns, the Cowboys would not only be the preseason Big 12 favorite, they'd be a legitimate Final Four contender. And Smart would be at or near the top of every Player of the Year watch list.
“Yeah, 99 percent would definitely go to the NBA,” Forte said. “But Marcus is a different kid. He doesn't get caught up in all that hype. He's just a winner. He wants to win.”
Will he be the difference in winning with the downtrodden Washington Wizards or the Charlotte Bobcats or Orlando Magic?
Smart said he didn't arrive in Stillwater with any thoughts of an early exit — OSU has never had a one-and-done player. Now such buzz is all around him, although he said he doesn't even peek at the mock draft projections that place him regularly in the top 10, if not No. 1, 2 or 3.
“I don't look at them, but I hear about it from friends and a couple of guys on the team,” Smart said.
Not that Smart is oblivious to it all. Scouts and NBA executives regularly attend Cowboys practices and games. And it's been that way since the preseason.
Smart said it all makes for a quite surreal existence.
“It's like a dream right now,” he said. “It's incredible to say that you even have the opportunity to have the chance to go to the NBA, to consider being a one-and-done. It's an amazing opportunity to have as an option.
“It wasn't on my mind when I got to Oklahoma State. And it's still not. It's not what's in my mind right now and it's not what I'm focused on.”
Cowboys coach Travis Ford said he and Smart haven't had any NBA discussions yet, with any such talk on the back burner until this season is complete. Then, Ford said, they'll sit down, address the pros and cons of staying and going, and let Smart make his call.
“It's exciting,” Ford said. “Either way, it's exciting. You don't get many opportunities to coach a young man like him. Just his approach and how nice of a young man he is. You only want what's best for him.”
Forte said OSU fans have reason to hold out hope for a return.
So does Ford.
“There's going to be decisions to be made,” Ford said. “But I can definitely tell you this, the decision has not been made at all. At all.
“It's not as easy as people think, either way. There's a lot of variables that will play a role in that decision. There's a lot of variables with him.”
And there's the fans and their love and their pleas, too.
“I've seen it,” Smart said. “I've heard it here and there. It's crazy, because I never in my life thought that I would be hearing that chant. It's a good feeling.
“At the same time, I don't focus on that. That's not my game. We still have a lot of basketball left to play, three regular season games, the Big 12 Tournament, the NCAA Tournament.
“But it's amazing to see that and hear the crowd and what they're saying.”
Where some NBA mock drafts have OSU's Marcus Smart going
ESPN.com — Between first and third, depending on which team wins the draft lottery, shuffled around with Kansas' Ben McLemore and Kentucky's Nerlens Noel. Smart would go first overall if the Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Hornets or Toronto Raptors win the lottery, according to ESPN's Chad Ford.
SportingNews.com — Sixth to the Sacramento Kings, behind Indiana's Cody Zeller, McLemore, Georgetown's Otto Porter, Maryland's Alex Len and UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad.
HoopsWorld.com — Fifth to the Phoenix Suns, behind Muhammad, McLemore, Zeller and Noel.
DraftExpress.com — Sixth to the Sacramento Kings, behind Noel, McLemore, Muhammad, Zeller and Len.
HoopsHype.com — Second to the Orlando Magic, behind McLemore.