Marcus Smart Anxious To Return

Marcus Smart said in the fall that he was hoping to make his sophomore season one to look back on with fond memories. "I just want to go out here and enjoy it. Life it too short, and a lot of times we forget that it's only a basketball game," said the Oklahoma State point guard, who reiterated that thought Thursday as he prepares to return to the court after serving his three-game suspension.

Smart, who leads the Cowboys in scoring average (17.5 points per game) and assists (4.3), will be back playing with his teammates on Saturday inside Gallagher-Iba Arena for the first time since shoving a Texas Tech fan of the Cowboys' 65-61 loss in Lubbock on Feb. 8. Ironically, he returns to the court Saturday against the same Texas Tech team in which he lost his composure in the game's final seconds. Tipoff is set for 12:45 p.m.

Oklahoma State lost all three games it played without Smart and has now lost seven games in a row, the longest losing streak for the Cowboys since 1973.

Smart was not able to travel with the team to Monday night's 70-64 overtime loss at Baylor, and responded via Twitter to a blogger who was critical of the team.

But the 6-4 sophomore point guard is looking forward to getting back on the court with his teammates and having some fun.

"Even though we've been having a rough patch and we've been losing, it's still been fun," Smart said. "I grew up with basketball my whole life, I've been playing it my whole life. It's never going to stop being fun, but the day it does is the day to put it down. When you're not having fun there's no reason to play any more. But I've been having a blast and I plan to keep on having a blast with it."

Smart said as difficult as it was watching his teammates play the last three games – losses to Texas (87-68), Oklahoma (77-74) and Baylor (70-64 in overtime) – he's learned from the experience.

"If I had to say one takeaway it would be a good learning thing for me. It builds character, and strengths me, and not just me but this team. It shows a lot of character for this team to come out to perform the way they did without me, and still go out there every day and play their hearts out," he said.

Senior Markel Brown, who played 121 of 125 minutes during Smart's three-game suspension, said the team is looking forward to getting their teammate back on the court.

"(He is) ready to put all that behind him. He's ready to help this team win. He's been encouraging us the whole way. He's been behind us 100 percent," said Brown, who is averaging 23.3 points the last three games.

"Now he's ready to come back out there and help contribute with the team. He's liked the way we've been playing the last couple of games and he's ready to join that."

Here are excerpts from Smart's first interview with the media since his three-game suspension ended:

What have the last few weeks been like for you?
Smart: Interesting. The one word that I can sum it up is interesting. Being away from my team, especially on the road, seeing them play on TV is kind of weird because I've never been a part of something that I've had to watch a team that I'm on on TV without me playing.

If you had to take one takeaway from the whole situation what would it be?
Smart: If I had to say one takeaway it would be a good learning thing for me. It builds character, and strengths me, and not just me but this team. It shows a lot of character for this team to come out to perform the way they did without me, and still go out there every day and play their hearts out. Then to have me back and wait on my arrival, it showed a lot of courage and confidence in this team.

Are you surprised at all the interest in Marcus Smart?
Smart: Not at all. I've been in the news since my freshman year coming in here, and I've had the spotlight on me for a long time. Everything we do is going to be magnified times 100. It just comes with the territory.

Have you changed your expectations for yourself or this team entering the last month of the season?
Smart: It's been the same. We're going to play every game like it's our last. Nothing has changed with this team. We still love each other; we're still going to play because that's what we love to do. We love the play the game of basketball, and we're going to go out there and have fun doing it.

What are your thoughts on how the team has played the last couple of weeks?
Smart: We've had a lot of guys step up. We've had a lot of guys play some key minutes who really don't play, like Mason Cox and Christian Sager. Those guys came in and helped us out a lot. You also have Markel Brown taking on the point guard role, and that was a big thing. His confidence is up right now, which is good for the team. You've got Phil Forte involved in a lot more minutes and doing a lot of things, not just shooting the ball. Everybody on the team's confidence is up, so it helps when I come back that it stays up. I hope to keep their confidence up and help this team.

Do you view the rest of this season as an opportunity to reshape people's view of you?
Smart: Not really. Like I said before, everybody who really knows me knows who I am, who I'm about, what I'm about. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, no matter what you say or do. Somebody is always going to have their opinion about you; there's nothing you can do about it. You just have to live your life.

What do you think it's going to take to get the team over the hump after some close losses the past few weeks?
Smart: We've got to finish out games. We've lost some close games. We're not finishing the game out, and that's our biggest problem right now. A lot of guys are struggling and we've had a lot of distractions. We're getting our distractions over with so hopefully we can get back on track.

Before the season started you talked about how you want this team to have fun this year. Have the last three or four months been fun for you?
Smart: It actually has. Even though we've been having a rough patch and we've been losing it's still been fun. I grew up with basketball my whole life, I've been playing it my whole life. It's never going to stop being fun but the day it does is the day to put it down. When you're not having fun there's no reason to play any more. But I've been having a blast and I plan to keep on having a blast with it.

How much fun will it be Saturday?
Smart: It's going to be ecstatic, especially getting back out there with the team and helping these guys get over this hump.

Do you hope other players learn something from your experience? And maybe fans too?
Smart: Definitely. Everybody is responsible for their own actions. It's easy to point the finger at somebody else. But a real man, a real person, knows when it's time to take the blame and when to take responsibility for their own actions. I take full responsibility for my own actions. It was my fault and everything I did, (and) the consequences came with it. I took the consequences, I dealt with it, the consequences are over with and did what I had to do, and now it's time to get back to playing basketball.


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