Posted April 17, 2013

Marcus Smart reportedly will return to school. Wow! And… why??

Big 12
Marcus Smart appeared NBA-ready as he bullied defenders with his strong and power. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Marcus Smart appeared NBA-ready as he bullied defenders with his strong and power. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

The news hit Twitter on Tuesday night like a sledgehammer. Oklahoma State freshman point guard Marcus Smart, considered a virtual lock to be a top-five pick in this June’s NBA draft, will instead head back to Stillwater for his sophomore season, as first reported by Yahoo’s NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

In the one-and-done era where potential trumps productivity and most megastars bounce as soon as possible, this is an astonishing decision. Smart has holes in his game, but he actually showed a good amount on the court this season to support his projected draft status. He has the size and developing skill to fairly be considered the best prospective NBA point guard in college — yes, ahead of the national player of the year, Trey Burke. Simply put, Smart earned this chance to do what practically every other kid in his position would do: Say yes, sign on a dotted line this summer and start earning more money a year than many Americans earn in their working lifetime.

Instead, he’ll be coming back to the Cowboys to play another season for free. As a college basketball fan, I want to celebrate. Instead, every neuron in my brain is screaming “What??!”

Writing about a choice made by a 19-year-old from the perspective of an almost-40-year-old is inherently unfair. I have a wife and a family and a mortgage and school loans and all the associated pressures of trying to maintain a long-term career in a rapidly changing (and contracting) industry. As much as the hoops scribe in me selfishly wants more players to take an extra season at this level, and as much as the father in me wants more people to value the journey instead of just hard dollars, the adult in me thinks this is a ridiculously naive decision. He’s passing up $9 million or more in guaranteed money. You just don’t do that.

Yes, Smart will have a sizable insurance policy in hand to help in case of injury and yes, he’ll still likely be a lottery-level pick next season, so he’ll be guaranteed significant money a year from now as well. But like with any decision you make in life, there needs to be worthwhile reward to take on the risk. What is that upside for Smart?  He’s almost certainly not going to be a higher pick next season with a big number of highly gifted freshmen likely going to be in the draft class. He’s not playing for a surefire national title contender. He’s not playing for a coach with a huge track record of preparing players for the pros. There’s a chance he doesn’t improve and people start to pick him apart more as a prospect. The math just doesn’t add up.

But maybe that’s the point. This can’t be about math for him and his family and his advisors. Because if it were, there’s no decision. You can’t approve turning down so much money and burning another year of a relatively short career based on physical ability. It’s nonsensical if cash is the entire conversation. So it has to be about something else, whatever that is, and it has to include Smart being OK with whatever the worst-case scenario is, which is either incredibly commendable or rooted in youthful ignorance. Maybe both.

Anyway, good for Smart, I guess? He really likes college life, or his teammates, or whatever has prompted him to decide he’s not ready to be a professional just yet. In an ideal world, we should be praising self-awareness like that. We thirst for it in athletes, and rarely get it at all, let alone in a dose this significant from a college freshman. And yet, the news has people in shock, and rightfully so.

That dissonance, in a nutshell, defines the basketball world we live in. Good luck, Marcus. And thanks for staying. Even though I think you’re nuts.

24 comments
CNEU
CNEU

Go watch his press conference and listen to Marcus Smart’s explanation in his own words. Listen to the young man. It will open your eyes. This is an extraordinary young man who GETS IT. Also listen to his interview with Doug Gottieb from yesterday. This guy is more mature at 19 years old than 95% of the adult male population. I was already a fan, but now I'm all in. Go Marcus!

Mike26
Mike26

I believe it's pretty funny that all these yay-hoos are criticizing this kid because he's using common sense and making his own choices = in this case FOR school rather than all the other 1-and-dones that NEVER return to school and end up with little or nothing left after their careers are over = IF they even have one anyway.  Glockner and ruggerick are WAY off.

Mike26
Mike26

1.  Smart can't shoot very well.  While that's also the case of 2/3 the players in the NBA, if he could hit jumpers outside 10 feet he could be the top pick next year.

2.  Andy, why do you have all these outside bills?  Everyone knows that SI gives their writers housing allowances, automobile accounts, free family health insurance, etc....

ruggerrick9
ruggerrick9

It's a dumb move.  Sorry.  People defending it by saying he just wants to enjoy college for one more year are defending immaturity.  The fact is, his career will end at a certain age no matter where he plays next year.   That means he has X number of years of competitive basketball remaining.  He just chose to play X - 1 years for money.  For example, he's 19.  If he retires when he is, say, 35, that means he has 16 seasons left.  He has just chosen to only make money for 15 of them.  He doesn't get add that paid year back on at the end.  

As for the value of getting a college education, he can go back whenever he wants.  Plenty of NBA and NFL players go back to their colleges in the offseason.  

Lastly, he will most likely be drafted lower next year simply due to the draft class being so much stronger.  This kid needs to wake up and grow up before it's too late.  


donald5
donald5

Saying he is playing "for free" is a d-bag move by the writer.  Why don't you ask millions of college graduates what one of their monthly expenses is for several years after they have left campus?

disbeme1
disbeme1

Wow, a kid decides to give being a student-athlete at least one more year and he is marginally ripped by this writer?! But if he chose to go pro instead, he would be marginally ripped by this writer... I hope he enjoys his college years because they will prove to be among the best of his life.

muser
muser

He's returning because he and Phil Forte want to play a little more ball together. Smart chose OSU over other schools because the Cowboys had room for Forte. Admirable... I hope Smart has a great season,  OSU finished tied for the Big12 title with Kansas and has a deep tourney run....

LanceLansing
LanceLansing

This article is so depressing. Maybe money isn't everything for this kid? That's essentially the entire reason Andy Glockner doesn't understand why he is staying. Is this what America has come to? He is protected from injury. He will still be rich even if he blows out his ACL, MCL, etc. So there's a problem with him waiting 1 year to get rich? What...the...heck?

mnaeymi
mnaeymi

Honestly, I hate articles like these, which question players' decisions (which are no one's but their own to make) to stay in school. Articles and opinions like these, from people that have never been in and cannot even fathom each of these young athlete's unique situations, contribute to players making poor decisions of leaving school for the riches of the NBA when it would have been better to stay in college. Who are you to question, even with your concessions, Smart's decision? What qualifications do you have? Shame on you for putting the NBA and its money on some sort of pedestal. It is not and never will nor should be the only goal for these young men.

RZ0
RZ0

A lot easier to understand his decision if you watch any NCAA game, where the announcers ceaselessly praise kids who stay in college and condemn those who leave early.

GoPSULions
GoPSULions

Sorry, he is not playing for free.  He has free tuition, expenses, room and board.  At Oklahoma State that is worth about 29,000/yr for out-of-state, or 18.000 for in-state. 

JoeMoon
JoeMoon

Perhaps he wants to turn his "strong" into a strength.

gmrk
gmrk

You are nuts! The one and done rule is nuts.  College Basketball is so much better than playing Pro Basketball for the current Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks and rest of the losingmany games franchies plus the 4 games in a row possibilities schedule.  Most of these young basketball players have not stopped growing and their tendons are not full strength yet.  He made get a injury at Oklahoma State and will be insured for the surgery and recovery if needed.   He will still enjoy the college experience than be free agent really quickly and bounce from NBA team to team.   The one and done rule should change to two years.   If NBA owners want to recruit players not going to college, that's risk on them.  Look at Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James so rare kinds of players in comparision to all these recent one and dones.   Paul Pierce went to KU long enough and he struggled in his early career, now he's a Hall of Fame player and still has fond memories of his life in Lawrence.


Mario Chalmers from KU hits the winning tying shot in the College final and KU wins in overtime. He goes to the Heat with Dwayne Wade and they had to make the huge deal to get Lebron James and Chris Bosh.  What other franchise is doing that to make a playoff team through trade.   Chalmers gets a NBA Championship then KU retires his number.  That's a rare college to pro experience!   Chalmers wasn't a top 5 pick either.

LanceLansing
LanceLansing

@ruggerrick9 Again, perhaps this kid doesn't care that much about money. You are saying that he is obligated to chase as much money as humanly possible? Beyond that, your argument really makes very little sense. Subtracting one year from his career is utterly irrelevant if you look at how much money even a bench player could make from playing 5-10 years in the NBA. It's a lot. Also, there's pretty much no way this guy isn't drafted in the 1st round next year. He is being seen as a lock for a top 5 pick this year. Weak class or not, he's still going 1st round next year which = rich.

Really the best part is your claim that not chasing money equals immaturity. He isn't married and he doesn't have kids. He only has his own life to manage. This kid is going to be wealthy regardless of whether he stays in school.

Coctostan
Coctostan

@RZ0 Right, because the announcers are effectively making money off the backs of these indentured servants. The fear is that a free market minor league system would look more like minor league baseball. The NBA and NFL don't want that. The NCAA and universities don't want that. The players definitely want that because they would be well paid just like the minor league baseball players.

Coctostan
Coctostan

@GoPSULions You are right, he is playing for well below market value because of the cartel built upon collusion between the NBA and NCAA.

$18k/yr is approximately equal to making $9/hr full time for a year. Not much more than the federal minimum wage.

Coctostan
Coctostan

@gmrk The problem is that he likely won't be a top 5 pick next year. This year it is a weak draft. That means that not only will he forego 1 year of salary and push back the age when he can become unrestricted, he also will earn less as a likely  2nd 5 pick.

The college game has become so stunted that it doesn't really do much to prepare kids for the more advanced and quite different NBA game. He would be better off riding the bench for 1-2 years, practicing the NBA style against NBA players. NBA teams prefer that. 

There are definitely kids who shouldn't be one and done but do it anyway. Smart is not one of those kids. He is as ready for the NBA as he will ever be.

Nobody would tell a computer science major to stick out 4 years if, as a very talented freshman, Google or Apple came to them and said we will pay you big bucks to work for us now. That is what the NBA does. There shouldn't even be a 1 year rule. That was simply collusion between the NBA and NCAA to maintain a free to the NBA and highly profitable to the NCAA minor league sports cartel.

LanceLansing
LanceLansing

@ruggerrick9 Furthermore, do you know what pick #30 in the draft receives in the rookie salary scale for the first 3 years? 850k, 889k, and 927k, rounded off. How many years do you have to work to make that kind of money?

GoPSULions
GoPSULions

@Coctostan @GoPSULions By NCAA rules, players are limited to 20 hours/week during the season, and 12 hours/week during the off-season yet in the acidemic year.  So even being generous that the season is  6 months and 3 months more for the regular school year, so a total of 636 hours.  He is from Texas, so its out-of-state tuition - $29,000/year.  So that makes it $42.90/hour.

Mike26
Mike26

@ruggerrick9 @LanceLansing ruggerick, your thesis is Swiss cheese in its logic and reasoning and only lightly deals with facts.  It's apparent that no one is going to change your mind regardless, so we'll just have to agree that you're wrong and move on.

robert.rosado25
robert.rosado25

@ruggerrick9 Your argument is flawed.  By saying Marcus Smart will be "subtracting one year off his professional career to have fun in college" suggests that you know something the rest of us don't.  Hypothetically, if Marcus Smart intends to play 10 years, he won't suddenly only play 9 because he decided to spend an extra year at school. 

ruggerrick9
ruggerrick9

@LanceLansing @ruggerrick9  Nobody is obligated to do anything they don't want to do.   My argument makes perfect sense.  He is subtracting one year off his professional career to have fun in college.  And the year that he is subtracting is at the end of his career, when if he is successful could be worth $20 million dollars.  What your saying is that since the money he could make in a 5-10 year career should be more than enough for him,  he should willingly forgo one more year.  Unlike you, I try not to assume I know how much other people need, but I can say for certain that the money a vast amount of these athletes make turns out to be not enough to last them the 40 to 50 years they will have left at the end of their careers.  

What this kid did, essentially, was potentially write a $15-20M check to go to college for a year.  If that seems smart to you, more power to you.


GoPSULions
GoPSULions

@alanlagow @GoPSULions @Coctostan I wasn't the one trying equate his playing of a sport that he hope will be his profession against a free tuition and expenses, since most kids (or their parents) in the school are paying most if not all their way through.  I'm simply replying that a free education and exposure to the NBA has value and its not like they're free like the article said.  

alanlagow
alanlagow

@GoPSULions @Coctostan  OK, cut it out. Those are 'official' practice hours. If he wants to be a NBA player, he will be doubling those hours easy on his own with other players. Prob more. 12 hrs off season??  He doesn't practice or work out more than 12 hrs a week in the off season?? Get a clue.If you limited a Math Major to 20 hrs a week "classroom" time, do u really think he would never practice or study more than that?