Marcus Smart's decision to return to OSU, delaying his jump to the NBA, remains a hot topic.
The Cowboys sophomore talked again Monday about the factors that played into his decision, ranging from his need to be better prepared for the pro game, a desire to make another run with his current teammates and the fun he's having being a college kid.
Smart also revealed more about another factor, the severe right wrist sprain he suffered in OSU's NCAA Tournament loss to Oregon.
“I fractured both my left and my right wrist in high school,” Smart said. “I fractured my right wrist really bad. The doctor actually told me they couldn't find my growth plate. So I've already had some scar tissue and damage in that wrist.
“So when I reinjured it in the Oregon game, it messed me up. I wasn't able to dribble the ball until May. That was a big reason why I made the decision. I didn't want to go in not being 100 percent and having to go out there and compete and make that my job.”
Smart said he isn't ready to say the wrist is pain free, but he did lead the USA to a gold medal in the U19 World Championships and has been working and practicing at full tilt.
“It's getting there,” he said. “It's not 100 percent yet, but it's definitely coming along.”
JOUSTING WITH THE JAYHAWKS
OSU and Kansas were voted as co-favorites in the Big 12.
The Cowboys return the most experience in the Big 12, led by the preseason player of the year in Smart.
The Jayhawks return — again — with a conference championship, its ninth in a row. And they have the league's most touted recruiting class, led by Andrew Wiggins, who recently adorned the cover of Sports Illustrated, drawing comparisons to Wilt Chamberlain.
“Kansas is still the favorite,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford. “Wiggins is, from what I understand, the best player to ever play. I've seen him play and he's really good. They're still the No. 1 team and should be.
“They've got tons of talent, they've got depth, they've got the best player to ever play at Kansas and that's a pretty good deal.”
Ford was having some fun. On a more serious note, he sees his team in the championship conversation.
“Are we in the hunt? Yeah, we're in the hunt,” Ford said. “Baylor is, I think, underrated. I think they're loaded … Iowa State's got good players. Oklahoma's got good players. This is going to be a tough league.
“But as I told our team, we've got a lot to prove, a whole lot to prove because we won nothing. We came one game shy last year of trying to be in first place (in the Big 12). Whether it's one game or 10 games, we weren't there. There's a lot of motivation.”
COWGIRLS: MORE DEPTH, MORE VERSATILITY
The OSU women added eight players in the offseason, giving the Cowgirls depth that was severely lacking down the stretch last season.
True freshmen Roshunda Johnson (guard), Katelyn Loecker (forward) and Lakota Beatty (guard), as well as junior college transfer Marisha Wallace (center), are all expected to contribute right away. Same with Brittany Atkins, a redshirt freshman guard who spent last season recovering from knee surgery.
Those extra players also give coach Jim Littell more flexibility with his lineups.
The Cowgirls can go big with Wallace or LaShawn Jones at center, which would slide Kendra Suttles to power forward. Or they can go small by playing point guard Tiffany Bias and her backup, Johnson, at the same time.
“I just believe that makes you more difficult to prepare for,” Littell said, “and we may be able to press a little bit more and play on the full court a little bit more. I think it does give us versatility with the people that we've brought in.”
NEW NAME: FORTE, TIMES 3
Sophomore guard Phil Forte will again wear No. 13 for the Cowboys, although his jersey will feature a new flair.
The name on the back: Forte III.
“Me and (teammate) Ford Stuen were talking over the summer,” Forte said. “I'm the third in the family, so he finally said, ‘Hey, why don't you put the three roman numerals on your back?' I was like, ‘That's not a bad idea.'
“It was kind of a spur of the moment thing.”
REPLACING TONI YOUNG A COLLECTIVE EFFORT
The Cowgirls return four starters from last season's squad. Still, they must replace Toni Young, their leading scorer and rebounder who became a top-10 WNBA Draft pick.
How can OSU account for Young's 16 points and 10.1 rebounds per game this season?
“We don't have anybody in the gym that's going to match her athleticism or do the things that she's done,” Littell said. “What we do have to have is good solid play out of LaShawn Jones and Marisha Wallace. They've got to come in and do what they're capable of doing.
“And then we've got to find a different way to make up for her points and rebounds. Not one person is gonna do it. We've got to do it collectively.”
BY JOHN HELSLEY AND GINA MIZELL