KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Marcus Smart has a simple message for Andrew Wiggins: Prove it.
It's the same message that Smart's veteran teammates from Oklahoma State want to deliver to the young, hungry group of Jayhawks led by the prized freshman this season.
"A lot of people are saying he's the best player now in college basketball," Smart said of Wiggins during the Big 12's annual media day Tuesday. "All I'm saying is how can you be the best player in something you haven't even played yet?"
Smart is coming off a freshman season with the Cowboys that would have made him a lottery pick had he declared early for the NBA draft. Instead, he chose to return to coach Travis Ford's team so that Oklahoma State could make a run at dethroning the Jayhawks in the Big 12.
The Cowboys would have been the odds-on favorites to accomplish it, too, had Wiggins not joined an already loaded recruiting class. The consensus No. 1 player in last year's class made his declaration to Kansas late in the process, and it sent a shockwave through the league.
Now, the Big 12's coaches have tabbed Oklahoma State and Kansas as co-favorites.
"I'm not saying he can't be the best player," said Smart, who is familiar with Wiggins from the AAU circuit and various national team competitions over the years.
"I know if it was me," Smart said, "don't just give it to me. At least make me earn it. All the hype, good for him. Congratulations to him, don't get me wrong. I'm not taking anything away from Andrew Wiggins, anything like that. He's a good player. I hope he does well."
Just not when the Cowboys face the Jayhawks this season.
"If he's the best player like people say, if that's the case, in order for me to be the best, I have to beat the best, right?" Smart said with a straight face. "If he's the best player, fans will get their money's worth when we play Kansas."
Wiggins has taken all of the hype, which included a Sports Illustrated cover comparing him to former Jayhawks stars Danny Manning and Wilt Chamberlain, with a shoulder shrug. In fact, his low-key temperament almost makes it seem as if he's bored by all the attention.