By now you’ve heard it hundreds of times.
Bring the rowdy back. Pack the house. Occupy GIA.
Cowboys coach Travis Ford has personally invited you to Gallagher-Iba Arena. Le’Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart have met with you to spread the word. Athletic Director Mike Holder has sat down to eat lunch with you.
But you have done nothing. You have not answered the call.
For the 600 of you who have not picked up your student tickets, there is no excuse. Those who have picked up your tickets, what more do you want?
The team is winning and has already tied last season’s win total, there is unquestionable star power and this year’s squad plays with an intensity and excitement that any fan would love.
But that’s not why you should attend games.
You need to watch Marcus Smart play the game of basketball while you still can.
The McDonald’s All-American arrived on campus with all the hype in the world. He was coming off back-to-back 5A state championships in the state of Texas, had scholarship offers from the likes of Kansas and North Carolina and helped Team USA win the FIBA Americas U18 Championships in Brazil.
I refused to buy into the hype without at least seeing him play. I watched him for all of about five minutes of practice and came to one conclusion: It is impossible to overrate Marcus Smart.
He is that good.
Smart is a Swiss Army knife for Travis Ford, a classic case of a player doing what he can to help his team win. He leads the team in assists (4.6) and steals (2.9), and he is second on the team in points (14.2), rebounds (5.8) and minutes (32.7). Did I mention he is doing all this while learning a new position?
His play only gets better as the games get bigger. In OSU’s surprising upset of No. 6 N.C. State, Smart had 20 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, four blocks and four steals. In a tough loss to No. 10 Gonzaga, he totaled 23 points, four rebounds and six dimes.
Still not impressed?
Just last week, Smart hit his first game winner at the college level to defeat Iowa State in our own backyard.
What did he do for an encore? Nothing, except will the Cowboys to victory against No. 2 Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse, one of the biggest upsets in school history. Smart got the game-winning steal in the final seconds.
Although you haven’t taken notice, the rest of the country has. Smart is a finalist for the Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award. He was named to the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 List, one of just two true freshmen on the list. Smart was also named to the Sporting News midseason All-America team.
Not bad for a kid who hasn’t turned 19 yet.
With all this recognition, Smart has been rising up NBA draft boards. Scouts rave about his versatility and some think he could be the best player of the 2013 class, should he choose to enter the draft after this year. Smart is projected to go as high as the fifth overall pick. It’s hard to turn down that kind of money.
I have no idea whether Smart plans on leaving for the NBA after this year or not. I have never talked to him about it but I doubt even he knows. He is concentrating on winning games. That’s the kind of man he is.
Whether Smart leaves for the NBA or stays another year, watching him play is worth the price of admission. Twenty or 30 years from now you’ll be able to brag you saw Marcus Smart play college basketball. I know I will.