Marcus Smart’s change for the better
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
FLOWER MOUND, Texas — Six years before Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart became one of the nation’s most respected college basketball players, he threw rocks at people’s heads.
How he blossomed into one of the sport’s most humble stars, an unassuming 18-year-old potential NBA lottery pick, was through a journey defined by deep personal loss and self-discovery.
Rage burned inside him after seeing cancer overtake one older brother and cocaine nearly destroy another. Anger boiled while confronting a neighborhood south of Dallas he called a war zone amid duplexes. He desperately sought to inflict others with the pain that incessantly gnawed at his 12-year-old heart.
One night near his home in Lancaster began like so many others, with Marcus and a friend stuffing their pants pockets with rocks and positioning themselves on the second floor of the apartment complex they called The Pinks, looking for a target with a pulse. Little did Marcus know this would be such a pivotal night in his life.
Spotting a man on a bike in a black hooded sweatshirt, they unleashed rocks and celebrated with high-fives and laughs after – Bam! – the pelting knocked the man to the ground. But when Marcus looked again, all he saw was the bike. And all he heard was the thumping of a man racing up the stairwell and a frenzied voice promising to kill him.
Marcus and his friend leaped over the second-story railing, landing hard on the concrete below. The man quickly followed. Fueled by adrenaline and fear, Marcus sprinted faster than he ever had on the football field or basketball court, zigzagging through alleyways to an adjacent complex, The Meadows.
Behind Marcus, the footsteps and menacing voice grew louder. Marcus did not know that the man was a member of the Bloods street gang. And until he glanced back in the dimly lit roads, he did not know what object the man held in his hand: a loaded gun.
Marcus knew he no longer was the generous kid who as a 4-year-old gave a homeless man his coveted $20 bill, no longer the innocent child who pedaled … [For more on Marcus Smart's change for the better, click here.]