Smart Continues Winning Ways

LAS VEGAS — When a player shoots 10-for-30 from the field yet still draws rave reviews, you know he's special.

Such was the case with Marcus Smart on Tuesday evening in the championship game of the Adidas Super 64, when Smart spearheaded Texas Assault to a surprising victory over favored — and local — Dream Vision in the final.

Smart was a worthy recipient of the MVP award, as his contributions included much more than scoring. He did finish with 29 points, buoyed in part by 7-of-8 free throw shooting and a second half when he knocked in 8-of-15 field goals. But he rebounded astonishingly for a wing player throughout the tournament, finishing with a sensational 18 boards in the finale.

He also added five assists, two blocks and two steals, and he didn't commit a single turnover against Dream Vision's elite athletes, including the nation's top wing in Shabazz Muhammad and combo forward Winston Shepard.

Winning isn't something new for Smart, who has captured many tournament titles in his AAU career, including the Super 64 16U crown (and MVP award) a year ago. And he led Marcus HS to a 39-1 record and a 5A Texas state championship this past season.

All summed up, there simply may be no way to exclude Smart from the national top 10 upon the release of post-summer rankings.

Not surprisingly, he's attracting increasingly heavy attention from big-time college programs. Texas receives consideration as the favorite for nearly any blue-chip Lone Star product, and the Flower Mound (Texas) Marcus High School star looms as no exception. Longhorns coach Rick Barnes was a familiar face in the stands of Assault games during the event.

Big 12 flag-bearer Kansas also is ramping up its attention, and others such as Oklahoma pose legitimate challenges to UT and everyone else as well.

Meanwhile, North Carolina made its mark early with Smart. Roy Williams stealthily offered Smart a scholarship before he became a truly elite prospect, and the Tar Heels hope to overcome Texas and everyone else from within the region. The first question posed to any Texas prospect is to what extent the state's pseudo-nationalism may affect his college choice, particularly with respect to the ‘Horns.

For his part, Smart insists geography is a non-issue:

"Really, it's all on me where I want to go," Smart said. "My family is very supportive and isn't putting pressure on me at all. Their only thing is that I'm happy wherever I go, but otherwise it doesn't matter."

Smart's family definitely has been a significant part of his development. Noted as one of the most ferocious competitors in high school basketball, Smart credits familiar rivalry to shaping his court personality.

"I have four older brothers, so I had no choice but to be competitive," he said with a laugh. "You have to be tough going against them."

Another question frequently pondered with respect to Smart's recruitment is his ideal collegiate position. He boasts the size — 6-4, 200 pounds — to defend the wing forward position, the quickness to defend wing guards and, at least on offense, the dribbling and passing ability to play point guard. While most may assume that Smart is similar to many of his peers in wanting to occupy the most perimeter-oriented position he can, he eschews that mentality.

"I'm not worried about my position," he said. "I can play anywhere, I just want to play."

The next step in Smart's recruitment is taking visits. He plans to take as many trips as necessary to determine the ultimate winner, with the goal of making fall officials in order to sign during the November period. Nevertheless, he said he hasn't planned any trips and won't even know which schools will get visits until he concludes the summer and begins to ponder his recruitment more intensely.

As typically is the case with players holding scholarship offers from UNC, Roy Williams personally is recruiting Smart to become a Tar Heel.

"I talked to Coach earlier this month," Smart said, "and he's definitely the main person (at UNC) I talk to. We've talked about me taking a visit there, but it hasn't gotten specific yet. I'm going to start doing all that after (the July period)."

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