LAS VEGAS -- I spent about an hour Thursday afternoon watching games with Florida's Billy Donovan, about 30 minutes at night chatting with Gonzaga's Mark Few. And now I can't wait to see Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart.
That's the result of those conversations.
I'm intrigued by their ongoing praise of OSU's incoming freshman.
It's been more than a month since Donovan and Few coached USA Basketball to a gold medal in the FIBA Americas U18 Championships in Brazil, but both men are still raving about the 6-foot-4 guard from Texas who could -- and perhaps, should -- be the Big 12's top newcomer when the ball is tossed up this November.
"He was our leader from the moment the players introduced themselves," Few said. "He's one of the best kids I've ever been around -- and that includes all the Zags I've coached."
None of this is news to Oklahoma State fans who have long known about Smart's gifts both with a basketball and with other basketball players, but it's still striking to hear two veteran coaches, now a good while removed from the experience, be so complimentary of a kid they'll likely never coach again. Donovan and Few also gushed about Class of 2013 standout Julius Randle, bragged about Tennessee sophomore Jarnell Stokes -- "He reminded me of [former Zag] J.P. Batista," Few said. "[Memphis freshman] Shaq [Goodwin] was the only guy who could bang with him," -- and confirmed that Class of 2013 prospect Austin Nichols, whose recruitment has turned fascinating, would've absolutely made the national team had he been willing to travel out of the country for the second time this summer. But Smart's the guy neither Donovan nor Few could stop talking about, and now I'm convinced I might have to make my third ever trip to Stillwater at some point this winter.