It was in late July when Oklahoma State star point guard Marcus Smart said he'd for sure be leaving college after his sophomore season.
But it was in the throes of defeat to Oregon in the NCAA tournament last year, a 68-55 Round of 64 loss to the 12th-seeded Ducks, that in part prompted Smart to pass up being a probable top-five 2013 NBA pick. The Tulsa World spoke with Smart, who said that loss definitely had an impact on his future. It still stings, so much so that Smart and his teammates haven't sat down and watched how badly they played in that game yet.
"I didn't think me nor the team gave it our all against Oregon," Smart said. "It left a disgusting taste in my mouth. We haven't even watched the Oregon video yet, and I'm pretty sure Coach is doing that for a reason because he knows how disgusted we are about it and he knows how hyped it's going to get us when we look at it.
"We're going to look at it and be, like, 'That was the team that came out and played that night?' It's just going to motivate us to play every game and make sure it doesn't happen again."
And if he winds up hurt or doesn't carry the Cowboys to the Big 12 title and the Final Four, there will be those who say Smart made the wrong decision.
"I'm the one who has to live with my choice," he said. "They can say whatever they want, but it's not going to change my mind. At the end of the day, they're not in my shoes."
We've already told you on the blog why it's dumb to criticize Smart for opting to return for a second college season.
It's good to see Smart talking more and developing a voice, so to speak. He was a quieter guy all around in college hoops last year, and if he's to be one of the five most popular stars/names in the sport this year, it's nice to know he's able to engage with the media more and more. (Not to mention becoming a "louder" teammate on the court, per the story linked above.)
Remember, Smart also recently spoke out on Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins' hype. Wiggins is the player that's not only seen as Smart's competition for winning a Big 12 title, but also for earning the Player of the Year crown in that league -- and a foe for being a top draft pick.
Things will be very interesting for OSU and Smart this season. There's pressure in Stillwater unlike anything in a very long time. Seems Smart is built to handle it.