Smart: Family’s at forefront, on court and off
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
STILLWATER, Okla. — What distinguishes Oklahoma State freshman Marcus Smart from other elite players is his rarely seen approach to the game, a selfless style of play that wows coaches such as Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Florida’s Billy Donovan. Everyone seems to have a story about Smart, a humble McDonald’s All-American who is almost universally respected among coaches and players.
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford remembers urging Smart to take some time off after he returned from the FIBA Americas Under-18 Championships in Brazil, but Smart instead was in the gym working out the next day. Cowboys teammates can tell you that after Le’Bryan Nash totaled six points in a Jan.5 loss to Kansas State, Smart blamed himself for not helping Nash score more.
Smart says the way he plays is a nod to his older brother, Todd Westbrook, a great shooter who was diagnosed with cancer at 15 and died at 33 in 2004. Smart spoke at length with USA TODAY Sports’ Eric Prisebell about his journey:
On playing in college with his best friend, Phil Forte
I met Phil in third grade because we played on the same AAU team. We don’t even look at each other as friends; that’s my brother. That’s something we will take with us the rest of our lives. Around fourth or fifth grade, we were in an AAU tournament. Me and Phil got into it on the elevator. We started throwing blows at each other. I could trust him to have my back on and off the court. He was a very tough kid. That caught my eye with him. I was taller, but he let it be known he would not let anyone walk all over him. That earned my respect. Ever since then we have been close. He is a feisty little fellow. That’s my brother.
On the influence of his brothers and parents to keep him out of trouble
It helped a lot. My uncles, actually, they have done drugs. I have seen what it has done with them. I didn’t have a feel for it. They were a … [For more on Marcus Smart: Family's at forefront, on court and off, click here.]