The USA Basketball U-19 team spent the past weekend practicing at the Verizon Center before heading to Prague for the FIBA U-19 World Championship. They have 1 of the most intelligent rosters you will ever see, featuring a Smart assistant coach (Shaka) and a Smart guard (Marcus).
Marcus Smart has only one year of college under his belt, and he surprised a lot of people this spring by deciding to stick around for at least one more season. If it is anything like the past year then it will turn out to be a great decision. He won a gold medal with the U-18 team last summer, then led the Big 12 in steals as a freshman, and finished his stellar year by being named an All-American. Oklahoma Stare only lost a few players to graduation this spring, so look for them to be a national contender next year. Jon Teitel got to spend some time talking with Smart about being a McDonald’s All-American and making it to the NCAA tourney.
You played with U-19 teammate Rasheed Sulaimon in the 2012 McDonald’s All-American Game. What is it like to be teammates again? I have been playing against Rasheed since the second grade, he is a great player and teammate. I was ecstatic to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game.
You played on the gold-medal-winning team USA at the 2012 FIBA U-18 Championship in Brazil. What did you learn last summer that you think can help your team this summer? We had a group of guys who were highly respected players on their own teams. Our focus is on bringing home a gold medal by beating the best in the world.
Last season you led the Big 12 in steals. How do you balance your offense with your defense? My defense starts my offense, if we can get a steal and get out on a fast break, it gives me a lot of confidence to score.
You finished the year by being named conference POY and All-American. What did it mean to you receive such outstanding individual honors? I feel blessed to have received such awards, but the memories from this summer will be with me forever.
In January you scored 21 points and made a running bank shot with 3.1 seconds left in a two-point win over Iowa State. How were you able to hang on for the win? We gave up a lot of three-point shots to their best shooters, but we were able to keep our composure.
You played a career-high 43 minutes before fouling out for the only time all year in a one-point, two-overtime home loss to Kansas. What are your memories of that game? I just felt bad that I let my team down at the end while I was on the bench.
You had 14 point and five steals in an NCAA tourney loss to Oregon. What did you learn that can help you get back to the NCAA tourney next year? You have to be ready at all times, stay focused, and do not get content until the tourney is over.