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Oklahoma State basketball: Freshman Marcus Smart drawing high praise from college coaches

By John Helsley October 8, 2012

Fran Fraschilla, the coach turned college basketball analyst, fired off a recent tweet that should ring sweet for Oklahoma State fans.

“Somehow I think Marcus Smart is good for 6 to 8 more Cowboy wins this year.”

From last year's disappointing 15-18 finish, that's a boost to 21-12 or 23-10.

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All that from one guy; and a freshman at that?

This guy.

Smart hasn't played a minute of official hoops at OSU, yet he's already setting up as the new face – and a shining face – of the program.

And at a time when OSU basketball stands at a crossroads of sorts, having missed the past two NCAA Tournaments and desperate to reignite a fan base, the Cowboys can use a fresh face capable of flipping their fortunes.

“You have to be careful praising young guys,” said OSU coach Travis Ford, “but he does everything.”

Most notably, he wins.

Two Texas Class 5A state championships at Flower Mound Marcus High School. Summer ball championships, including the 2011 Adidas Super 64, when he scored 29 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in a title game win over UCLA prized signee Shabazz Muhammad's squad.

An international championship, starting and starring for Team USA's gold medal team in the FIBA Americas U18 Championships in Brazil.

It was there where Smart's legend grew, buoyed by the praises and ravings of the U.S. team's coaches – Florida's Billy Donovan, Gonzaga's Mark Few and VCU's Shaka Smart.

“I didn't know him at all and we were never really involved in recruiting him,” Donovan said. “The only thing I knew about Marcus Smart was watching him play, that he was a gifted and talented player.

“But just being around him for that whole trip, I have not seen a guy that age with the internal makeup and the ‘it' factor like he's got. It's really, really impressive. It's a great thing to watch. It's so clear why he's going to be this great player.”

What's clear to Donovan and others goes beyond the obvious indicators like the traditional stat line.

Smart's greatest traits are intangibles.

“The No. 1 thing when you watch him play,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford, “you see that competitiveness, that will to win. Him diving on the floor, taking charges, playing unselfish.

“Defensively, he's an animal. He handles the ball. He passes it. He just does everything really, really well. And he really competes.”

Scoring and rebounding? Yeah, he can do that.

A McDonald's All-American and a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Texas, Smart averaged 15.1 points a game as a prep senior.

“I'm not really concerned with the scoring,” Smart said. “I can score, but it's not my main focus.”

Making winning plays – all sorts of plays – that's Smart's aim. So if he's not filling up the basket, he's filling up the stat sheet.

And the win column.

His final year at Marcus High, he averaged 9.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.2 blocked shots while shooting 66.9 percent from the floor. He also drew 43 charges.

And Marcus High went 39-2. Smart's teams went 115-6 during his three years.

“There are a lot of players who think they have to score 30 points to do their job,” Smart said. “You can impact the game with so many other attributes than just scoring. It doesn't matter how we win, as long as we win. If I score zero points, the win is all I'm worried about.”

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