Marcus Smart is headed to the NBA, to the surprise of no one but perhaps to the relief of Marcus Smart. Only Smart can decide if returning for his sophomore season was worth it -- if there was real value in a season of controversy and suspension and comebacks and disappointment. Either way, he's escaped all of that now, even if he created some of the trappings himself. And even if Smart doesn't see it that way.
"I've had a wonderful two years at Oklahoma State, and I wouldn't trade them for anything," Smart said in a statement released by the school Tuesday, announcing his intentions to begin his professional career.
The sentiment almost defies belief, but for the sake of a player who just turned 20 last month, it'd be nice if that were true. It'd be nice if Smart in fact viewed a season of super-heated scrutiny as the sort of thing that soldered his resolve and matured him. A preseason All-American was under the lights for his on-court and sideline demeanor long before one shove of a fan at Texas Tech turned everything around him into a blast zone. Smart returned after a three-game suspension, rescued the Cowboys' season and at least got them into the NCAA tournament, even if a round of 64 defeat followed. He was no doubt changed by it all.
"Marcus has had an incredible impact on our program," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said in a statement. "He has been a joy to coach, and we've enjoyed having him on our team. He is going to have a terrific career for a long time in the NBA. No matter what team he ends up with, they are going to get a great player and, more importantly, a special person."
The truth of that will roll out over the next few years in how Smart carries himself as a professional. Smart averaged 18 points, 4.8 assists and 2.9 steals as a sophomore, with his shooting percentage sneaking up from 40.4 percent as a freshman to 42.2 percent in his second and final season at Oklahoma State. It doesn't appear Marcus Smart got everything he wanted by coming back for one more year. But he got something out of the tumult if he found value in it. And at least he can stop looking back now.