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Smart returns, and students erupt with cheers

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
April 18, 2013

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Either it was pouring rain outside or perhaps the best trio of players Oklahoma State University has seen on the hardwood were about to announce whether they were staying or going. Okay, so it was the latter…

Students leaned on poles, railings, each other, whatever they could find as they squeezed into the Student Union in Stillwater. All Coach Travis Ford had to do was walk to the podium to get loud cheers.

Then, the lineup. First sophomore Le’Bryan Nash:

“It took a lot. Talked to Coach Ford, talked to my family. And I decided to come back for my junior year.”

Then one hundred and nine excruciating seconds later, junior Markel Brown let loose this:

“We all came up with a decision that it was time for me to keep building on this legacy at Oklahoma State”

And finally, a little less than a minute and a half passed, and the one rumors had swirled about since the Cowboys walked off the court in Oakland after an early exit from the NCAA tournament, freshman Marcus Smart looked up and said:

“Looks like I’m coming back for my sophomore year.”

Smart, once projected as a top five pick in the upcoming NBA draft, had an opportunity to make millions of guaranteed money, because of the NBA’s payment guidelines for high draft picks.

“I’m aware of how much money I am giving up. I am aware of that, you know? A nineteen year old kid with that much money.”

But he said he couldn’t get the taste of the season ending loss to Oregon out of his mind.

“It motivated me a lot. All my life, I’ve been a winner, two back to back state championships. Come in, and we finally make the NCAA tournament. Just all my life I’ve been winning. This team, I feel like we had a lot more to accomplish. We’re a lot better team than that. That’s just not the way we wanted to go out.”

Some from the outside looking at Smart’s decision simply called it naïve, questioning if there was any upside to returning. He could get injured like Louisville’s Kevin Ware, and have a long road to recovery. And next year’s draft class is expected to be much stronger, so it could be harder to go so high and make as much guaranteed money. Students, though, were thrilled.

“Oh I’m pretty amped because obviously the rowdy is back to stay.”

Matt Kempford from Tulsa had season tickets this year…

“If it’s not packed for every Big 12 game, I’ll be disappointed.”

Next year, the NCAA Final Four is slated for Dallas. Marcus Smart’s family currently lives in Flower Mound, a suburb of the city. Smart now has a legitimate chance to play on that final weekend of the season in his own backyard.

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