CHICAGO — Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart was projected to be a lottery pick in the 2013 draft but he surprisingly opted to return to Stillwater.
Back in Chicago for the first time since the McDonald’s All-American Game, the 20-year-old junior did not participate in workouts at the 2014 NBA Draft Combine, following the lead of most of the top prospects in the 2014 class.
“My agent,” Smart said. “He made that decision for me.”
Smart said he can sense that he is on the verge of reaching a dream delayed. He returned to school as a sophomore hoping to take the Cowboys to great heights and a Big 12 championship. It was a rocky season for Smart and OSU, including a suspension for shoving a Texas Tech fan on Feb. 8, and clashes with teammates and opponents on the court.
Smart said he has no regrets after living the life in 2014 — no rent, big man on campus, loving college — and he expects to make the most of his chance to prove naysayers wrong.
“It’s like a dream come true,” he said. “I’m out here living my dream, but reality hasn’t set in yet. … They’re going to make an investment — you want them to know it’s a safe investment.”
Dinwiddie eager to get to the court
Colorado point guard Spencer Dinwiddie is recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee. He went down in January and was averaging 14.9 points and 3.8 assists, a heartbreak for the junior and his teammates, many of whom expected him to leave Boulder a year earlier.
The Buffaloes — a Sweet 16 team, Dinwiddie said — missed the 6-foot-6, 200-pounder’s deadeye perimeter shooting and ability to create. Dinwiddie is not able to showcase those talents in May. His sessions with teams will be mostly limited to one dribble and shoot and some stationary work, Dinwiddie said.
But he’s eager to get to the court, likely by training camp in October, and prove his value. Dinwiddie said whether he is picked “5 or 45” he will be the best point guard in the draft. He didn’t seriously consider another season at Colorado to prove his health there.
“I felt I was ready,” he said. “I got a co-sign from my parents, which is something I did not have last year. I had more growth to do, just as a man. When my parents said, ‘Do what makes you happy,’ and it wasn’t, ‘You need another year of maturation,’ that kind of opened it up for me. Having confidence in my knee and knowing I could be back before the start of the season opened it up for me.”
Hairston learns in the D-League
Former North Carolina shooting guard P.J. Hairston was not on the team in 2013-14, but he has clearly been in the weight room.
Though Hairston said he is “naturally strong,” he brought a chiseled frame and heaping helping of humble pie to Chicago after playing in the D-League. He lost his eligibility with the Tar Heels for accepting impermissible benefits, including rental car use and other ties to convicted felon Fats Thomas.
Hairston was suspended for the first 10 games and then dismissed for good before the end of the first semester in Chapel Hill. He considered Europe and had at least two lucrative offers but learned that he could join the D-League in January. That path worked for Glen Rice Jr., who was drafted 35th overall in 2013, after being kicked out of Georgia Tech.
“He said it works — you don’t want to do this, but it works,” Hairston said of his conversation with Rice Jr. before hitting the developmental league.
Bigger, stronger, faster wasn’t a cliche in the D-League. With the Texas Legends, Hairston averaged more than 20 points per game and grew a more precise 3-point stroke that was on display in workouts Thursday. Going up against defenders that were 6-6 instead of 6-2 helped Hairston know he needed to pack on more muscle — and he went from 215 to 235 with constant workouts.
“I have a better feel for basketball,” he said. “I started three months before everybody else. Everybody else was in the middle of college basketball season. Once I got to D-League, it wasn’t by choice that it happened, but it’s up to that person (to make the most of it).”
Hairston knew he was making progress when he learned workouts were arranged with several teams following interviews in Chicago. He’ll meet with the Chicago Bulls and is scheduled to be in Boston to visit the Celtics on June 3.