Three Storylines: The Smart Decision

STILLWATER, Okla. -- The Student Union was packed as reporters and fans waited for Wednesday's announcement. First it was Le'Bryan Nash. Then it was Markel Brown. And Marcus Smart finished it off. All three Oklahoma State basketball players announced they'll be back in Stillwater next season, putting their NBA dreams on hold. Here are the three storylines from the announcement you need to know:

1.Smart came back because he's a winner. It's as simple as that.
We can break down a million things that went into Smart's decision to return but it's not that complicated. Smart is a winner. He lacks absolutely no self-confidence. He wants to return to Stillwater to win a championship. And it's not because that's what people are telling him. That's what he truly believes. And why wouldn't he? With a year of college ball under his belt, he and the Cowboys can only get better.

The negatives that continue to be thrown around – threat of injury and loss of draft positioning – aren't really concerns for a guy like Smart. Base your career on something you can't control, like getting hurt? That's not his approach to the game. Possibly losing millions compared to what he would have received in this draft? If it happens, it happens.

But it's obvious that's not important to Smart. He has the confidence to be an NBA player, no matter when or where he goes in the draft. So why not take an opportunity to take OSU – a school he loves – back to prominence? He's wants to win a championship at every level he plays. The NBA can wait.

2. Don't undervalue Markel Brown's decision.
The headlines will be all about Smart, but don't take for granted that we'll see Markel Brown back in Stillwater next season. Despite not having the Smart hype, he's still an integral part of this squad. Don't forget his 2013 stat line: 15.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists.

There's no one on the team currently, or in the arriving recruiting class, who could fill that void. And yes, this was an easier decision for Brown than it was Smart. But given Brown's progress and upside, he's got a real shot at an NBA future. The Cowboys have their most veteran player back next season. That's great news for OSU fans.

3. Next season is a make or break year for Travis Ford.
You thought Travis Ford was on the hot seat last year? Get ready to turn up the temperature next season. With his core coming back and Douglass High School point guard Stevie Clark entering the mix, expectations will be through the roof in 2014.

That means every loss will be magnified x 1000. Fair or not, much of Ford's legacy will come down to how far the Cowboys advance with Smart at the helm in his sophomore campaign. OSU should be a top-10 preseason selection, and a bandwagon pick to reach the Final Four. But if the Cowboys fail to meet expectations in a big way, Ford could be on his way out.



Marcus Smart:

On his decision: "Everybody has been amazing in this decision that I'm making today. I got to talk to my mom, my family and my brothers. It was a hard decision to make. I love you guys. I'm a Cowboy at heart, so it looks like I'm coming back for my sophomore year ... I am aware of how much money I'm giving up."

On being fueled to return by OSU's early tournament exit: "It motivated me a lot. All my life, I've been a winner. Two back-to-back (high school) state championships. To come in and finally make the NCAA Tournament, all my life I have been winning. But I feel like we have a lot more to accomplish. We're a lot better team than that. That's just not the way we wanted to go out."

Le'Bryan Nash:

On his decision:"This was one of the hardest decisions of my life. I talked to coach Ford, I talked to my family, and I decided to come back for my junior year."

Markel Brown:

On if it was a group decision: "It played a little role in it, but we all made decisions on our own, with our family and with the coaching staff. We just sat down and really talked about what was best for us."

Travis Ford:

On hearing the news:"When he told me, I was relieved for him. It's been, as you can imagine, a very stressful time on trying to decide ... I told him I was excited because he was excited. He knows I'd love to coach all of these guys another year, but I understand both sides of it."

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