Travis Ford did it the right way.
Not only did the Oklahoma State Cowboys coach land a five-star recruit in Marcus Smart for this season’s recruiting class, Ford nabbed Smart’s high school teammate, Phil Forte. Recruiting teammates isn’t uncommon in college sports but Ford’s approach was masterful — he offered both players, regardless of whether the other committed or not.
Smart was the No.11 overall high school recruit coming into this season and the No.46 shooting guard in Forte isn’t a simple throw-in to sit at the end of your bench.
Calling Forte a 3-point threat has turned out to be a serious understatement, especially when the feeds come from Smart passing out of a double-team. Besides being a walking book of newspaper headlines, the Smart-Forte combination went seven 3s and 37 points in a blowout win over a pretty decent North Carolina State Wolfpack team that was ranked preseason N0.6.
Smart and Forte average 23 points and four steals per-game on a Cowboys team predicated on doing more than just scoring to win games. Both players make hustle plays on a nightly basis and are learning and growing within the game side-by-side. They feed off each other and a backcourt that’s played together for as long as these two have makes the game come that much easier for both kids.
The NBA talent that Smart is, Forte is an extra security blanket for Ford in Smart’s reasons not to bolt for the Association after his freshman season. Not to say that Forte couldn’t someday develop into NBA talent but league GMs are already salivating at the chance to take Smart in what’s perceived as a weak draft class this season.
Oh, and if it wasn’t already made abundantly clear, they’re both only freshman.
Having a back court as fluid as Smart and Forte bodes well for Ford, especially with last season’s top recruit Le’Bryan Nash having more trouble learning to be an adult than a basketball player.
One coachable player is a dream but two makes things easier than any coach could ever imagine.
Two players that can hold down the starting guard spots for (god willing) four years and fuel an Oklahoma State resurgence are on Ford’s team for at least the rest of this season, all because Ford recognizes simple math and common courtesy.
Mike Gillmeister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @mgillmei