Most teams would expect a few bumps and bruises in the first game of the season, as players work out the kinks and learn to work as a unit once more.
Not so for Texas Assault, an AAU powerhouse – at least not in 2011.
Playing in their first tournament of the spring at the Jayhawk Invitational in Lawrence, Kan. during the final weekend in April, the Assault 17U squad advanced to the semi-finals while competing in an extremely talented field. That success was due in no small part to the play of Marcus Smart.
A 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard from Flower Mound (TX) Marcus High School who carries a reputation as a lock-down defender, Smart's earned recognition from Scout.com national recruiting analyst Brian Snow as one of the event's top performers.
"One of the most physical and impressive players in the class of 2012, Smart isn't a super explosive as an athlete but he gets to the rim at will with his strength and just always wins," Snow said. "His shot is getting better and now must be respected. More so than anything, Smart is simply a winner, and showed it in every aspect all weekend long."
Characteristically self-effacing, the burly guard acknowledged he's still got much to improve upon, and seemed more excited by the play of his team.
"For the first time playing a game together with a group of guys, for the first time this year, it was a good experience," he said.
As one might expect, the four-star prospect is being heavily recruited by a number of high major programs including - almost literally - the entire Big 12. Every prep athlete to receive similar attention responds to it differently. Some enjoy it, some would rather not deal with it, and some even seem to be bored by it.
Smart, however, has nothing but appreciation for the road opening up before him. And while at this early stage in the process he considers himself open to all comers, Texas, North Carolina and one other heavy hitter appear to be making more of a push right now than the rest.
"Kansas is still up there, most definitely, no doubt about it," he said. (KU, Texas and UNC are) putting in a little bit more (effort) than other schools, but other schools are still in the running."
While in Lawrence, for the Jayhawk Invitational, Smart made the short cross-town trip to Allen Fieldhouse with his mother and the rest of his Assault teammates for an unofficial visit to Kansas. While there he met with the coaches, toured the facilities and, in general, came away impressed with what the Jayhawks had to offer.
"It was great," he said. "It was a great experience just to be in that type of setting. It was an incredible moment."
Smart wasn't sure when the Assault would next see action, as many of their players are busy with life off the court - including high school proms - as the school year comes to a close.
Stay tuned to Phog.net for more on his recruitment throughout the spring and summer.