By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER —Sounding like a college kid who had just been woken up after a long night of studying for finals, Marcus Smart is spending the last few weeks before the new school year to catch up on rest and relaxation.
Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Smart is enjoying his final moments of freedom before the pressures of season and the Oklahoma State program weigh on his 19-year-old shoulders.
“It feels good to be able to get somewhat of a break,” Smart said. “It’s been a long summer, playing with the USA team over in the Czech Republic for that amount of time, going to the NBA mini-camp, it’s just been a real long summer of basketball. It’s going to be some good rest for my body.”
The rest is well deserved, too.
For the second straight summer, Smart has been busy traveling the world and playing basketball.
Smart was a member of the USA Basketball Men’s U19 team that traveled to Prague, Czech Republic, for the FIBA U19 World Championships. Smart led the team to the United States’ second gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championships since 1995.
“It’s a great experience. No many 18- or 19-year-old kid can say they did that,” the Oklahoma State sophomore said. “A lot of people would trade places with me any day. It was just an incredible experience getting to do that.”
Smart admitted the summer schedule heading into college might have played a part in him at times looking and playing sluggish during the season — which didn’t hinder his ability to earn Big 12 Conference Freshman and Player of the Year honors and get the program back to the NCAA Tournament.
But he says the work and travel this summer won’t grind on him as much as a year ago.
“Last year I wasn’t really used to it and with going to college for the first year, my body wasn’t really used to all that stress,” Smart said. “But this year I’ve got a little more of a break in between before we actually start back up and my body is used to it now and knows what it feels like. This break is going to help my in a major way because it gives my body that break that it needs for all the stress it’s been under. So I don’t feel I’ll be as worn down as I was last year.”
After winning gold in Prague as the team captain, Smart received recognition on higher level.
With two gold medals under his belt, the Flower Mound, Texas, native was one of just two college players to earn an invitation to attend USA Basketball Men’s National Team Mini-Camp — along with Creighton’s Doug McDermott.
At the mini-camp, Smart went up against players already established in the NBA — including point guards Kyrie Irving, the 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year and John Wall, 2011 NBA All-Rookie First teamer.
“You learn a lot out there. You see what they go through every day with the competition and how they perform on a daily basis,” the Cowboy point guard said. “It really just helps you in the long run.”
Smart also gained some press during his trip to Las Vegas for something he said about his future.
In an interview, the OSU sophomore stated that if he stays healthy this season, it would be his last at Oklahoma State.
“I was just answering a question, honestly. It was kind of obvious though,” Smart said about the comment. “I stayed another year to give myself another year to get ready for the next level.”
With it already out there that he plans to enter his name for the 2014 NBA Draft, Smart’s hopes that it will be one less distraction during the season.
“I feel that this will squash a lot of those questions that people asking me about it,” Smart said. “They know now, and hopefully they won’t continually ask me. I feel like establishing that will take a little bit of that pressure off me.”
Jason Elmquist is sports editor of The Stillwater NewsPress.