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Marcus Smart on Andrew Wiggins: ‘I am not saying he can’t do it. But he has not done it yet’

Oct 21, 2013, 12:33 PM EDT

Marcus Smart AP

January 18th and March 1st.

Go ahead and circle those dates on your calendars right now, and, if you cannot find a way to get into Phog Allen Fieldhouse or Gallagher-Iba Arena, start prepping the popcorn and the nachos right now.

Those dates are the two regular season games to be played between Kansas and Oklahoma State, two top ten teams and, by far, the two favorites to compete for the Big 12 title this season.

There is already plenty of hype surrounding the season-long battle that will take place between those two programs. Let’s ignore, for a second, the fact that these are two teams that will be in and around the top ten all season long, that they will be fighting for a conference title and will enter March with a shot to get to the Final Four. That, all by itself, is a reason to tune into the games.

Now toss in the fact that Oklahoma State was thought to be the favorite to end the Jayhawk’s run of nine straight league titles when Marcus Smart and Markel Brown decided to return to school, and the rivalry gets even more spicier. Why? Because Andrew Wiggins’ decision to attend Kansas means that a bunch of freshmen are all of a sudden sitting atop the Pokes in just about every preseason projection.

You better believe that ticked off a competitor like Marcus Smart, especially when one of those freshman enters the game with more hype than Smart got for returning after an all-american season and a chance to train with the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team during the summer. From USA Today’s Eric Prisbell:

“They are saying he is the best college player there is and he has not even played a game yet,” Smart told USA TODAY Sports. “Of course that hypes me up. It is all talk. He still has to put his shorts on one leg at a time like I do. It is all potential. I am not saying he can’t do it. But he has not done it yet.”

[...]

At 6-foot-4, Smart wants nothing more than an opportunity to guard the sinewy 6-8 Wiggins.

“Definitely,” Smart says. “I am not going to back down from any challenge. Like I said, you are going to have to prove to me. I am a fighter; I will keep fighting and will never give up.”

[...]

“I want to earn it, I don’t want anything given to me,” Smart says. “It has not been [given] at all. I want to work for what I have. If feel if you work for what you have instead of it being just given to you, people respect you a lot more because you understand what it takes, you’ve been there and done it. No one can just say it was easy because you took it. You didn’t just get it. You took it. So all the power and credit to him [Wiggins]. Congratulations for the Sports Illustrated, all the hype, congratulations to him. But that’s definitely a lot of pressure on him.”

Yeah, these quotes are going to be everywhere by the end of the day.

And it will only serve to ratchet up the intensity of what could end up being the two most anticipated conference games of the season.

But you know what? I don’t think Smart said anything wrong here. Of course he’s going to be ticked off that a freshman is coming in an stealing all the spotlight that he should be getting. Of course he’s going to think that he’s just as good, if not better than Wiggins. Of course he’s going to want the chance to get out on the court and prove it by beating the Jayhawks and by locking up Wiggins himself.

In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that I love that Smart came out and said this. He didn’t diss Wiggins, and was actually quite respectful of his talents. Smart’s smart. He knows how good Wiggins is. But he’s a competitor, one of the best in basketball at any level, and he’s not going to give some freshman an inch just because the kid could end up being a star one day down the road.

Seeing these two go head-to-head is one of the things that I am most excited about this season.

Anyone else hoping that they lock horns in the Big 12 tournament final?

  1. thestilt - Oct 21, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    KU will win the Big12 for the 10th straight year. They might play in the Big12 tournament final if OSU can actually make it this year which they failed to do with this same team last year. There is also a chance they make it out of the first round of the NCAA tournament this year.

    • bigmeechy74 - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:31 PM

      “with the same team last year.” Right. Because it isn’t possible that the freshman and sophomores from last years team improve at all. They have to remain “the same team.”

  2. shafted1 - Oct 21, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    FINALLY! A sports writer who is willing to acknowledge the truth. Refreshing!

    Speculation that some high school kid is going to turn collegiate basketball upside down is absurd. History has shown us too many times that the transition from high school to the collegiate level is not an easy one. History repeats itself.

    Kentucky is the perfect example. The Wildcats dominate virtually every preseason poll based upon freshmen; rookies who have never played at the collegiate level. 2012-13 exposed the foolishness of such hype. UK entered last season with the same coaching staff and the #1 recruiting class in the nation but managed to lose in the first round of the NIT after winning the national championship the previous year.

    Andrew Wiggins performed well against other high school kids but the collegiate level consist of ‘cream of the crop’ from high school. Talent levels are drastically increased as a result of recruiting only the best high school kids. And that is limited to the incoming freshmen. Sophomores, juniors and seniors have actual experience competing with the ‘cream of the crop.’

    Unproven potential of talented high school kids should be kept in proper perspective. How many times must history repeat itself before we learn our lesson?

    • Timothy Bladel - Nov 4, 2013 at 1:08 AM

      I love how people become comment board commentators. Everyone was hyped up on Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnet and Labron James. They hype up high school players all the time, but rarely do everyone get up on one player. Andrew Wiggins has that kind of talent. And no, Wiggins didn’t just perform against the run of he mill high schoolers, he played just as much at a high level in the Mcdonalds All-American game, which had the best of the best high schoolers, so of which will be great players themselves.

      But yes, most people think Wiggins will be good if not great. Baring a injury or a lack of willpower, he has a good chance at being the next generational player. But it looks silly trying to down him, like you and smart are doing. Smart won’t ever be as good as Wiggins could be, and you seem to not really know what Wiggins can do.

      http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UKJZId_52m4&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DUKJZId_52m4

  3. imforbigblue - Oct 21, 2013 at 7:54 PM

    Yeah because UK didn’t win the NC the year before with a almost all freshman team. Last year UKs best player went out hurt and that hurt UK bad. Just like if KU would lose Wiggins your season would be over. I promise your team doesn’t want to play Kentucky come turny time hell no team Does. once these boys click together they will mop the floor with most teams

    • shafted1 - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:15 PM

      The loss of one player did not cause UK’s misery last season. Noel played in nearly 2/3 of the regular season before suffering the injury. His injury merely provided UK fans with an ‘excuse’ for their poor performance!

      UK might do well this upcoming season but that’s assuming all those egos can work as a team rather than a bunch of individuals. Likewise, UK might repeat last year’s performance!

      I haven’t heard anyone even so much as mention concerns about competing against UK. Can you provide names of those teams who are afraid? They may get to mop the floor after the NIT but that’s about all the mopping they’ll do.

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