Don't Count Out Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

Three weeks ago tomorrow, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I had the opportunity to visit with Marcus Smart and Tiffany Bias for a story for the upcoming issue of Go Pokes Magazine. We picked that Monday because there were no classes and both Ryan Cameron and Mike Noteware in the Oklahoma State media relations office thought it would be a good day to get the two point guards together.

However, unbeknownst to Cameron or Noteware, the schedules for the Cowboys and Cowgirls were not the typical Monday schedule because the OSU student-athletes were not attending class that day. The Cowgirls practice went longer than expected that morning, and when practice finished Smart was unable to meet because he was required to go to a team lunch. Bias then had to watch film for the Cowgirls' upcoming game at Kansas.

Smart, even though it was a day off for the Cowboys and he had no reason to return the arena again, agreed to come back to Gallagher-Iba Arena after the lunch. Bias graciously reworked her schedule that day after practicing and watching film for the better part of the morning. The two were engaging and seemed to enjoy the 20-minute question-and-answer session, and had a few laughs at the other's expense.

I share this story because although I don't claim to know Marcus Smart that well, I have interviewed him on three or four occasions in the past year and a half.

The Oklahoma State sophomore is not your typical 19-year-old interview. He often offers insightful answers, thinking about what he's going to say before speaking (not an easy thing for some who are 20 years older than him to do, yet alone a teenager), and is as comfortable talking with the media as any OSU athlete I can recall in many years. (Note: I began covering OSU athletics in 1987 and have done so off and on for the past 27 years).

Marcus Smart is not a perfect human being. He will be the first to admit that. This column is not to defend his actions in the closing seconds of Saturday night's loss at Texas Tech when he pushed a Red Raiders fan.

It would have been best if Marcus would have gotten up after committing the foul, walked over to Red Raiders head coach Tubby Smith, pointed at the fan and said to Smith, "That guy right there just said this to me." Then it would have been in the hands of Smith and Texas Tech officials. Today, I'm sure Marcus wishes he had also done something different than confronting the fan and then pushing him.

Smart's frustration with his play in recent weeks, his teammates struggles on the court and the Cowboys' four-game losing streak came to a head late Saturday night in Lubbock. He reacted in a way that he shouldn't have and unfortunately it will be the first thing that many college basketball fans think about in the future when they hear the name Marcus Smart. That's unfortunate.

He has the opportunity to either improve himself through this situation or let it take control of his life. The Marcus Smart that I have come to know over the past year and a half is going to learn from this experience. Hopefully, he'll not only become a better basketball player but also a better man.

Although Marcus Smart disappointed many OSU fans (and all college basketball fans) with his actions at Texas Tech, don't be surprised if the 19-year-old rallies from this situation and his words and actions leave you cheering for him again very soon.

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