Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart forewent the 2013 NBA Draft for the chance to lead his Cowboys to an NCAA title as a sophomore. He will likely be a preseason First-team All-American, and is easily the best returning player in the Big 12 this year.
However, his presence in the conference has been largely overshadowed by the arrival of Kansas’ superstar recruit Andrew Wiggins. The Jayhawks freshman has yet to play a single college game, but has already been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and is a national media darling.
That has not quite irked Smart, but it definitely provides motivation.
“They are saying he is the best college player there is and he has not even played a game yet,” Smart told USA TODAY. “Of course that hypes me up. It is all talk. He still has to put his shorts on one leg at a time like I do. It is all potential. I am not saying he can’t do it. But he has not done it yet.”
Smart is a 6-foot-4 point guard. For his position, that is on the taller end. However, his height is not conducive to guarding the 6-foot-8 Wiggins – who is already being compared athletically to LeBron James.
Smart doesn’t care about height, however. His Cowboys face the nine-time consecutive Big 12 champs on both Jan. 18 and March 1. Smart is already relishing the challenge of guarding Wiggins.
“Definitely,” Smart says. “I am not going to back down from any challenge. Like I said, you are going to have to prove to me. I am a fighter; I will keep fighting and will never give up.”
None of Smart’s comments should be misconstrued as him trash-talking the former No. 1-rated recruit, however. In fact, Smart believes Wiggins can live up to the hype – but he must first play in games to do so.
That, as well as walk an incredibly fine line with the eyes of the basketball world now constantly upon him.
“I wouldn’t say he is overrated,” Smart says. “I would just say there is a lot of pressure on him right now. He is under a microscope from the world that is bigger than anybody would think, bigger than he knows. Whatever he does will be magnified times a million, just because of the hype. Whatever he says, does, however he acts.”