Leyton Hammonds, like a large majority of hoops fans in Oklahoma, was glued to his computer during the lunch hour of April 17.
He was on YouTube, streaming the live feed from OSU’s Student Union, eager to learn if Marcus Smart (and friends) would return for another season in Stillwater.
“He said he was going to come back and my whole family jumped out of their seats,” Hammonds remembers. “Everyone was so excited.”
For good reason. Hammonds, from Richland, Texas, is an incoming freshman, one of five newcomers set to join the Cowboy hoops program next year. And in most seasons, as a 6-foot-8 wing with ballhandling skills, Hammonds has enough talent to be considered for an immediate spot in the rotation.
Same with Jeff Carroll, a 6-foot-6 athlete (also from Texas and also heading to OSU), who dropped a game-high 26 points and five threes in Saturday’s Faith 7 All-Star game in Shawnee, which paired the best seniors from both Oklahoma and Texas against each other.
Neither will start next season. And there’s a chance neither finds a consistent spot in the rotation. But both seem to recognize the rare benefit that awaits them — a chance to sit, watch and learn from a group of veterans led by a guy who the Orlando Magic wish was playing point guard for them next season.
“We got guys in there that are pros, basically ready to be pros,” Hammonds said, right before he dropped 18 in that same Faith 7 All-Star game. “It shows us how hard we have to work to get to that level. We just want to push our game to the next level. I want to play like Marcus Smart, want to train like him. He’s like my mentor now. I look up to him as a teammate and as a friend.”