Stay Or Go? College Hoops Players Have To Decide What Is Smart For Them

 
on April 17 2013 5:25 PM

Perhaps you’re basking in the afterglow of the recently completed NCAA tournament, or swimming through the sludge of the Rutgers University coach-by-abuse fiasco. Maybe you’ve stepped away from college basketball altogether until next fall, opting to focus on baseball or spring football.

Regardless, the fact remains … the game, as it does with all big-time sports, goes on – day after day, month after month, year-round.

Be it hirings or firings, conference addition or subtraction, something always seems to pop up on the hoops radar. With all that, and the underlying reason behind everything being money, it was kind of nice to see that Oklahoma State freshman Marcus Smart opted to remain on campus at least another season, a decision he made public Wednesday.

No one-and-done for him. The green and gaudy lifestyle provided by an NBA bank account can wait.

It was nifty change of pace, this young man’s decision. The kind he displayed throughout the 2012-13 campaign, bewildering Big 12 opposition at the blink of an eye when he’d burst from normal speed into lightspeed and then back again whenever the situation called for it … or whenever he felt like toying with those trying to guard him.

Thing is, was it a smart move? Obviously, only Smart can determine what truly makes him happy, and remaining in Stillwater, Okla., could top all else for him right now. But, in the context of the real world, where “gettin’ when the gettin’ is good” typically rules, you have to wonder.

He could get injured in college and never cash in on a pro career. His stock could drop.

Stay or go, it’s a tough call every postseason for those faced with the choice. Only time will tell if it was the right one. For now, though, here’s one take on Smart and other notables who have announced their intentions:

Nerlens Noel, 6-10 freshman center, Kentucky: Opted to go – smart move. He’s still considered the top prospect even after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee while blocking a shot against Florida in a game on Feb. 13. No point in trying to prove yourself in the line of college fire when NBA scouts already have told him he doesn’t have to.

Marcus Smart, 6-4 freshman guard, Oklahoma State. Opted to stay – questionable. Most had him as the second-best player in the draft. At best he jumps one spot in the pecking order this time next year if he has an even better season. Funny thing, the kid says he’s a “Cowboy at heart,” which might mean he stays at OSU all four years.

Ben McLemore, 6-5  freshman guard, Kansas. Opted to go – debatable. He’s a top-3 talent no matter how you slice it. But staying in Lawrence, Kan., a little longer may not have been a bad idea for his development both on the court and off. For historian types, his conference battles with Smart could have been legendary.

Michael Carter-Williams, 6-6 sophomore guard, Syracuse: Opted to go – may as well. Has the look of a permanent roller-coaster – one minute he’s an All-American, the next he’s Bambi on ice skates. Staying would not improve his stock.

Otto Porter Jr., 6-8 sophomore forward, Georgetown: Opted to go – brilliant. Don’t see the ability, skill and drive that others do, so may as well strike when the iron is hot.

Victor Oladipo, 6-5 junior guard, Indiana: Opted to go – see Porter. The Dwyane Wade and Michael Jordan comparisons will end abruptly now, so he might as well cash in while he still can.

Cody Zeller, 7-0 sophomore center, Indiana: Opted to go – huh?!! He’s not ready. Plain and simple, he’s just not. Has a very high ceiling, but it’s never going to be touched unless he gets more physical.

Trey Burke, 6-0 sophomore guard, Michigan: Opted to go – makes sense. A worthy national player of the year, he may prove to be more the serviceable type at the next level. His stock won’t go higher.

Shabazz Muhammad, 6-6 freshman guard, UCLA: Opted to go – ditto. Here’s the biggest reason why it makes sense: he’s old. Turns 21 in November. No point in delaying that payday when he can get it.

Anthony Bennett, 6-8 freshman forward, UNLV: Opted to go – confusing. He’s got the NBA body and a solid portfolio, but there is no “wow” factor to his game at this point.

Alex Len, 7-1 sophomore center, Maryland: Opted to go – impetuous. Made great strides from freshman season. Similar progress next season would have shot him to the front end of the lottery.

BEYOND THE ARC

A couple of lesser early-entry names to keep an eye on are New Mexico’s Tony Snell and Saint Joseph’s C.J. Aiken. Neither junior had overly impressive college careers, but both are freakish athletes who can dominate on the defensive end, Snell as a 6-7 two-guard and Aiken as a shot-blocking 6-9 forward with a wingspan that would have had Al McGuire gushing about “aircraft carriers” if the announcer were still around … Unfortunately, one of the college game’s best players – Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas – has that “will get lost in the shuffle” look to him, because he’s a 6-7 ’tweener with skills that don’t really suit an NBA wing player or a body that fits an NBA power forward … Two big-time, big-man talents – Gonzaga 7-footer Kelly Olynyk and Syracuse 6-8 forward C.J. Fair – could alter draft predictions significantly if they opt to skip their final seasons in college. They have yet to do so.

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