December 5, 2012
Smart's mindset is changing OSU's culture
This isn't familiar territory. This isn't what he's about.
"The last time I lost?" Marcus Smart uttered when I asked him. "Man
I don't even know. It wasn't in the summer. We went 32-2 last year. We lost to some team in the Whataburger tournament early in the year. That's probably the last time."
The Whataburger Tournament was this time last year for Smart, Phil Forte and their Flower Mound Marcus High School team.
Now, they've settled into the season with Oklahoma State, where winning has come just a little more often as losing in the last couple of seasons. They started hot and won their first five, but then adversity hit on a trip to Virginia Tech this past weekend, and the Pokes suffered their first loss.
Smart, the ringleader of the team, has brought his attitude to the team that missed both the NCAA and NIT tournament last season.
Something's got to give.
"It's all been coming together," he said. "It's been working together but unfortunately we just took a loss. But that is not going to stop anything we've been doing. We're still going to come out and work hard and pride ourselves on defense."
Smart has been phenomenal in his first six collegiate game, and his stat line tells you most of the story. 14.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.3 steals, and a block a game is something you don't see often, yet he's messed around and done it regularly and even went above and beyond against the Hokies.
That game on Saturday was his first true road game, and with the crowd taking aim on him alone, he messed around and grabbed his first double-double of his career.
"Going to someone else's place in that hostile of an environment, things change," he said. "We learned a lot that is going to help us further down the road for away games. It was a big lesson for us."
It hasn't been just Smart this year though. Those assists have been widely dispersed, but mostly to the other two heads of coach Travis Ford's three-headed monster, [dd]Le'Bryan Nash[/db] and Markel Brown.
"Those two are great players," he said smiling. "I've never seen anybody do the things they do. I've never seen a guy Markel's size jump how he does. It's like the floor is a trampoline."
"The way Le'Bryan finishes through contact is great. A lot of players would just give up and quit but he goes through it. That goes a long way."
The biggest difference is that Smart has changed the culture around the Cowboy basketball program. It started last year with Nash's preseason claims that he would one day bring championship banners to Gallagher-Iba Arena's already-crowded rafters, and Smart has only reinforced it.
They're exactly where they want to be-Improving, and focusing on the long-term goals they set out before the season began.
"The whole team has improved on the defensive end of the floor," Smart said. "We focus and pride ourselves on defense. We kill each other in practice by playing hard and giving it our all."
That's his recipe to success, and that's the way Smart will return to his winning ways. After all, if tradition holds true, he's not due for another loss until this time next year.
The Cowboys return to GIA tonight to begin a long home stand. The opponent will be the University of South Florida, and the game is set to tip off at 8 p.m.
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