Smart, West Squad Win McDonald's Game

After hours of scouring the World Wide Web in search of a box score from Wednesday night's McDonald's All-American game in Chicago, I discovered something: it doesn't exist. At least not yet. And, in a way, that's perfect.

I watched the game save for a 20-minute section where my cable went out at the beginning of the second half, roughly taking away eight minutes of gameplay from my viewing experience. This took away any realistic chance I had of accurately reporting Marcus Smart's stats from the game without a box score to make up for the time lost in cable-provider limbo.

But statistics have never done Smart justice. This time is no different.

He didn't score much, or at all in the 32 or so minutes I saw. He missed free throws. He bricked a few jumpers. Few players ever really shoot well in these all-star games and Smart certainly didn't. That's OK. He had as much to do with the West's 106-102 victory over the East as anybody.

Smart, who started at shooting guard for the West, made the right passes. He cared about defense in a game where few ever do. He communicated with his teammates, he set screens, he moved well in a make-shift offense and rotated on defense. He did the little things that help teams win and his West squad did exactly that.

Smart's team almost always wins; he does anything he can to facilitate it. That's one reason he was a McDonald's All-American and among the most sought after high school players in the country. It's a reason his Flower Mound Marcus Marauders won their second-straight Texas 5A state championship and finished 39-2 on the season and ranked fifth nationally in ESPN's high school poll.

"I think he is one of the most ultra-competitors I've seen play," OSU coach Travis Ford said in a Wednesday afternoon meeting with the media. "He is one of the best leaders I've seen. It's to the point where sometimes his high school coach has to tell him to be quiet in practice because it doesn't allow anyone else to be a leader; it's that type of thing."

That leadership was on display on Wednesday in the United Center. Even though Smart wasn't scoring, his team just played better when he was on the floor. He found teammates for open dunks after drawing in defenders. When that option wasn't open, he kicked it out for open 3s. He grabbed loose balls and wisely pushed the floor, sinking back and getting it to the point guard if they didn't have numbers in transition. He makes winning basketball plays and is constantly communicating. He's exactly what OSU didn't have in 2011-12.

"There is a reason they've won two state championships and finished runner-up his sophomore year," Ford said. "... This guy's leadership and this guy's will to win and his skill level has people in recruiting saying it's something they haven't seen in a while. He's what we need, really. He's going to bring a competitive spirit to our team. It's going to be fun to be a part of every day in practice."

That's not to say OSU doesn't have competitive players. Anyone who watched this team in Big 12 play knows that. Markel Brown has a fire about him. So do Brian Williams and Michael Cobbins. Le'Bryan Nash asked if he could have the cast on his fractured hand removed so he could play in the Cowboys' final five games but his request was turned down. OSU has players who want to win at all costs.

Smart just operates on a different level.

Maybe you watched the game and weren't impressed because he didn't drop 20 points. Frankly, Smart is too unselfish to flourish from a scoring standpoint on the individually-minded McDonald's All-American stage.

Where he has his impact is in a true team setting. He brings a mentality and a discipline that raises the play of those around him.

He also has an NBA frame and next-level ability to go with it.

"He's an extremely versatile player and we talk about that a lot," Ford said. "We have Le'Bryan (Nash) who is versatile but this guy can play a lot of different positions. He's skilled and he played the point guard spot most of the time for his high school team at 6'4 or 6'5. He brings a physical presence and is a beefy guy. He's very strong and very athletic.

"His impact will be felt immediately."

Maybe the stats from Wednesday's game come out Friday morning. Maybe even Saturday but it doesn't make a difference. If they do, his line isn't going to wow anybody.

But his team did what it set out to do in the Windy City: It won. Smart's teams always do and he does the small things that make it happen. Ford can't wait to get him to Stillwater for that reason.

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