Smart Enters Player Of The Year Discussion

There were a few extra TV cameras and reporters Thursday afternoon that don't always make it to the usual media access sessions inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. That's because it isn't every day that a freshman from Oklahoma State is named to the midseason watch list of 30 players for the James Naismith Award for the best player in college basketball.

Marcus Smart made the list as one of just four freshmen among the supposed top 30 in the nation.

The point guard that has been the absolute top difference maker in leading OSU to a 21-6 mark overall and an 11-4 record in the Big 12 entering Saturday's game against Texas is a well-rounded player that does so many things well.

He is also capable of making the play that takes your breath away like a drive to the basket in the second half of the 64-47 victory at TCU on Wednesday night. It was a play where he exploded into the lane, looked off a defender, went up and changed hands in mid-air and laid the ball in.

Smart is not Michael Jordan but some of the plays he makes like that one are Jorden-esque, minus the tongue hanging out like number 23 used to do.

"That's pretty high praise putting him in that category," Cowboys head coach Travis Ford said with a chuckle. "He didn't have a great game last night, but he will do things even when he is not playing his best. Inside those games he'll do things that make you say, ‘Okay I see, that's what everybody is talking about.' I would agree it was some nice moves."

"That is kind of how he has always been since we were younger," said Phil Forte, a longtime teammate at Flower Mound Marcus and in AAU ball before coming to Oklahoma State.

"He is always able to do things that make you say wow. He has been blessed with that ability to make special plays that have the ohhh-awww factor with the crowd. I've kind of got used to it by now but there are a lot of people around the country that are starting to see that."

Smart is humble young man, and he said he doesn't really spend time reliving any of his shots and actually asked which play we were asking about. He remembered it, but he remembered more that teammate Le'Bryan Nash, who had a career high 28 points in the win over the Horned Frogs, helped set up the opportunity.

"You know, I don't know what to say," Smart said with some surprise. "My teammates expect me to do that so it really doesn't faze me as an ohhh or wow moment. I know I can do it, but it is just the matter of doing it, and really it was all because of L.B., Le'Bryan Nash. The lane was so open because they were so focused on the way L.B. was playing. He did what he was supposed to do and opened the lane for me."

Forte says that humble bit of Smart's is no act. He has been with him long enough to know that it is sincere.

"He'll joke around about it sometimes, but that's one of the things that makes him so special is he is so humble," Forte expressed. "He moves on to the next game right away."

Ford, when asked by the media, said he thinks Smart should be considered the best player in the nation. Nash was asked and said the same thing. His long-time teammate, Forte, took careful consideration of the question and agreed.

"I'm going to go out there and say yes," Forte said after taking a legitimate pause to think about it. "He does so much for our team, whether it is scoring rebounding, assists, steals, defense.

"He is just a winner and I have never met anybody like him, that has a motor like him and he is such a joy to have as a teammate. His leadership is so good and he is really great to play on the same team with."

You can't be the best in the nation to strangers unless you are the best in the nation in the minds of those that play next to you every day. Smart has his teammates votes and the votes of those of us he wows with his highlight plays. One is more important that the other, but both are special.

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