Marcus Smart‘s draft stock dropped the second after he announced he was returning for his sophomore season at Oklahoma State.
Well, the preseason All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year showed exactly why he wanted to stay and why he still could again be considered a top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft with the best performance of the early college basketball season in Oklahoma State’s 101-80 lop-sided victory over a very experienced Memphis Tigers team at home Tuesday.
Smart scored 26 of his career-high 39 points in the first half in a variety ways. Smart said he wanted to stay because he needed to improve his outside touch. If Tuesday’s shooting display is any indication of what is to come, fans are going to be for a treat. Smart looked confident in all aspects of his game, but really showcased his ability to take and make the long-range jumper. Smart did not shy away from behind the arc as he knocked in his first three-pointer on the front-end of a four-point-play.
Smart continued to stroke the deep jumper and finished 5-of-10 from three. He also used his speed on the break to either swoop to the hoop or find open teammates for easy buckets. Smart is the strongest guard in the country and threw his body around well to score inside. Smart added five rebounds, five steals, three assists and two blocks. This style of play from Smart is what the Cowboys (4-0) need to succeed going forward. Smart’s all-around talent can match anyone in the country when it all comes together like it did Tuesday and he — and his team — can be unstoppable.
This effort was much needed after it followed three spotty outings for Smart to open the season. Smart averaged only 14 points on 40 percent shooting. Maybe seeing the play of Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Andrew Wiggins was in his head. Smart did have solid all-around numbers as he averaged 4.3 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 3.3 assists in that stretch.
However, Oklahoma State needs the more selfish score-first Smart that shined Tuesday if they want to go deep in the NCAA Tournament.
If Smart stays focused on this season and gives similar effort in every game the remainder of the year and into his pre-draft workout, staying in school will look like a much smarter move than many thought it was last year.