April 17, 2013
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart all announced their intentions to return to Oklahoma State for the 2013-14 basketball season today at the Student Union Atrium on the OSU campus. All three had been considering the opportunity to enter the National Basketball Association draft in June.
"This is an exciting time for Cowboy Basketball," said head coach Travis Ford. "All three of these guys will have an opportunity to compete at the next level. They realize and understand that the individual awards they received come from great team chemistry, playing well together as a team and winning basketball games. Staying in school also provides them with an opportunity to continue their education, which is very important to them and their families."
Nash, a two-time All-Big 12 selection, averaged 14 points and 4.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season. He was named All-Big 12 Third Team by the league coaches and honorable mention All-Big 12 by the Associated Press. A prolific scorer, he has 44 double-figure scoring games in his two-year career.
Brown, a unanimous second-team All-Big 12 honoree and an All-District VI selection as a junior in 2012-13, averaged 15.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game this season. He improved his shooting averages during the offseason, shooting 36.4 percent from beyond the three-point arc. He became the second player in school history to record 200 assists, 100 steals and 75 blocked shots in a career, joining Byron Houston.
Smart, a consensus second-team All-American, led the Cowboys, averaging 15.4 points and 4.2 assists per game as a freshman. He was named both the Big 12 Conference's Player and Freshman of the Year. He received the Integris Wayman Tisdale Award as the national freshman of the year from the United States Basketball Writers Association and was a first-team All-American according to Sporting News.
"I'm very excited about next season," Ford said. "With all the players we have returning, and the addition of some extremely talented new guys, next year should be very entertaining. We're looking forward to many sold-out games inside Gallagher-Iba Arena." With all three players coming back, Oklahoma State has the top-three returning scorers in the Big 12 Conference for the 2013-14 season. The Cowboys also return their top-seven scorers from a team that went 24-9 a year ago and was one-win shy of sharing a league title.
Quotes from the Press Conference
Head Coach Travis Ford's opening statement
"First, I just want to thank everyone for coming out and being a part of this day. I also want to take this opportunity to thank all the students this past season for bringing the rowdy back in Gallagher-Iba Arena. You guys made it one of the toughest places to play in all of college basketball. Teams started to fear coming into Gallagher-Iba. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank the students and all the fans for the support they gave this team this past season. It all ended a little too soon and didn't end the way we wanted it to, but there were a lot of outstanding moments in this past season.”
“When we were talking about where to have this press conference today, it was our players' idea to have it here in the Student Union and let the students and campus be a part of it. You mean that much to this basketball team and all the players.”
“Anytime you're a part of a team, and your team has success like we did, certain individuals are going to be achieving certain awards and having certain opportunities. Some of these opportunities that some of these players have been presented with have only come about because they have great teammates. They're a very close-knit group of guys. Again, when you win, good things happen to everybody. That's the case for several of these players. So, we thought we would take the opportunity today to let three of these players who had decisions to make, had opportunities to be a part of certain things and decisions that they've been thinking about the past few weeks, we thought we'd give them this opportunity to share their thoughts and decisions."
Sophomore guard/forward Le’Bryan Nash on his decision
"Like Coach Ford said, thank y'all for coming out. This is one of the hardest decisions of my life. I talked to Coach Ford and talked to my family, and I've decided to come back for my junior year."
Junior guard Markel Brown on his decision
"This has been a great year for our team. It's been a long year. It's been great playing with these guys. It's been a long journey. I don't know what to say. I've had the time to talk to my family, my grandma and my uncles, and we all came up with the decision that it was time for me to keep building on this legacy here at Oklahoma State. I just want to thank y'all for all the support, and let's do it again next year."
Freshman guard Marcus Smart on his decision
"Once again, thank everybody for coming out. It's been a great year and we had a great season. This group of guys meant a lot to me. I just want to thank everybody for coming out and supporting us with the way you all did. The coaches have been great. Everybody has been amazing in this decision that I'm making today. I've been talking to my mom, my family and my brothers. It was a hard decision to make. I love you guys. I'm a Cowboy at heart. So, it looks like I'm coming back for my sophomore year.”
“To be honest, this was a little bit earlier than I expected to make but after talking with my mom about some things, it just clicked with me. I've been praying and praying and I just followed my heart, this is where my heart is at and I'm glad to be here.”
“There were a lot of speculations going (on). I've been bashed and criticized that I probably made a mistake coming back here, the NBA would be there and I should have taken it. But I think I made the right decision, and all of the people that said that they don't have confidence in my ability and my game to compete with those players next year, you guys have given me that confidence to do that, so I chose to stay here.”
“I am aware of how much money I am giving up, I am aware of that. It's a lot of money, but I feel like I made the right decision. I feel like making that decision and giving up that much money showed me the true colors of some people in my life and the people close to me. It showed the true colors of how they really think and how they really feel of me. I think I made the right decision and go Pokes!"
Smart on what ultimately impacted his decision
"I talked with my parents a lot more; they helped me with this decision. My mom came to me that night after the banquet and said, 'I've been praying and whatever you want, I'm happy for you. I think you know what you want. Yes, it's hard but go with your heart.' I prayed that night and woke up the next morning, talked with her again and just felt like it was time to make my decision and OSU is where I want to be another year."
Smart on how much what Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo and Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke at the Devon Energy Awards Banquet on Monday said to him impacted his decision
"A little bit, Tom Izzo is a great coach. I was able to talk with him a couple times and I got to share some insight with Trey Burke, who is also a great player. Congratulations to him and for his award and accomplishment, and I hope he does well next year in the NBA. I definitely got to talk with him a little more and it definitely helped me with my decision."
Smart on the attendance for today's announcement
"This is incredible, this is a great turnout. Gallagher(-Iba Arena) had been missing us for a couple years and I'm just glad this group of guys, including me and the coaching staff, were able to bring the rowdy back and continue to do this thing that we had. It's a special thing and we thank the fans, we love these guys for coming out and supporting us. It's incredible to see this turnout."
Smart on the early exit from the NCAA Tournament impacting his decision
"Definitely, it motivated me a lot. All my life I've been a winner, back-to-back state championships and to come in and finally make the NCAA Tournament. It's something I had been waiting for all my life. This team felt like we had a lot more to accomplish and we were a better team than that. This is not the way we wanted to go out and it helped motivate me a little more to come back next year."
"I can't even tell y'all how excited I am right now. We got Marcus Smart and Le'Bryan back. We need to get y'all back jumping. We're ready for next year."
"I think y'all are getting a glimpse as to why these guys wanted to come back. This is just something you don't get every day. This is something you don't get in your life all the time, to be a part of a team that is as close as this and has had as much fun as these guys and have had a big role in these decisions."
Brown on if Smart’s decision played a role in his decision
“I guess you could say it played a little role. We all made decisions on our own and with our families and coaching staff. We just sat down and really talked about what was best for us. I feel like we all came up with staying one more year would be the best thing to do. Even though we all could have done what we’ve dreamed of, it’ll still be there after next year. We just had to make the decision on our own.”
Brown on what it means for the program to bring back seniors next year
“I think it means a lot. Over the years, you see a lot of young guys leaving early without a lot of experience. I’m going to be here for four years, and I’ve learned a lot as I’ve been here and I’ve gotten better over the years. I’m looking to continue to build on that, learn more, continue to gain chemistry with my teammates and continue to get better as a player. It means a lot to me to be a senior with the knowledge that I have from my years before. It’s great to have.”
Brown on making a name for himself
“I’ve been dealing with that almost all my life. I talked to my high school coaches even back during the recruiting process. It was a lot of big names out there before me. He always used to tell me that doesn’t matter all the time. You can always go out there and make a name for yourself. I think I’ve done that with the help of these guys. They have great talents that mix in with mine and they’ve made me look good out there on the court. They’ve helped out a lot. I don’t really think all the matters. It’s just about us going out there, playing well as a team and getting wins.”
Smart on the Final Four being in Dallas next year, near his hometown
“Final Four is in Dallas next year, but that’s not what we’re focused on. We’re going to take it one game at a time. It’ll definitely be neat to make it there and go back to [Smart and Nash’s] hometowns. No doubt about it. Like I said, this team is going to take it one game at a time and focus on the games in front of us and not worry about the future.”
Nash on the Final Four being in Dallas next year, near his hometown
“It would be great, but like Marcus said, we have to take it one game at a time. It starts with the summer. We have to get better in the summer, and we have a lot to look forward to. It’s going to be fun.”
Ford on his reaction to Smart’s decision
“We’ve been talking to all three of these guys for a while and giving them as much advice and counseling over this whole process. We talked Monday morning and kind of went over a few things. Marcus mentioned to me, ‘Coach, I think I know what I want to do.’ I didn’t even ask him what it was. I just said, ‘OK, good.’ He said that he wanted to talk to his mom and dad, and I told him to do it and let me know. When he told me, I was relieved for him because it’s been a very stressful time with them trying to decide. So many people hear so many different sides. I was excited. I told him I was excited because he was excited. I told him I understand both sides of it. All we kept telling these guys was, ‘do what you want to do and do whatever excites you. If you’re going to say you want to come back, I want you to say it with a smile. If you’re going to the NBA, say it with a smile. Whatever it is, I want you to be happy and be excited about it.’ When [Smart] said he wanted to stay, I could tell he was excited about it. He was relieved. I told him to sleep on it. I called him back the next day and asked if he was sure. He said yep. I told him to come see me later that day before I told anyone. Once I knew for sure that’s what he wanted to do, then we started planning things from that point on.”
Ford on the importance of Smart, Nash and Brown making their own decisions
“Everybody has their opinion. We’ve learned that very well. The only opinion that matters is Marcus Smart, LeBryan Nash and Markel Brown’s and what they want to do. They all have their reasons. Some of their reasons are the same for staying. Some of them are different reasons. They have their reasons on why they decided to stay, and that’s the only thing matters for me. As long as they are happy with their decision, that’s the most important thing. They don’t need to stay for me. They need to stay for the team. We gave them every bit of advice for both sides and they had to make the decision.”
Ford on his outlook for next season
"A lot of things have been on hold for us until they made their decision, scheduling and different things like that. That has played a role as far as us being able to move forward at this point and understand who is on our basketball team. It’s going to be nice to come into October 15th with guys having an understanding of what I want. It’s been awhile since we've been able to really pick up from last year, even though we did have a few guys returning on this year's team. There is no question that we had a good year and we have a pretty nice team returning, but I've been around this game for a long time, I've won games, lost games and experienced everything that basketball has to offer, I am most excited that I get to coach, every day, a group of guys that I enjoy being around. They have fun together and make my job easy. That's truly what I'm most excited about. When they told me they were coming back I was excited that "hey I get to coach you" not immediately thinking ‘Oh, we are going be this or going be that’. They each talked about how if they stayed another year they could further their education and get that much closer to a degree. That impressed me. That says a lot about these young men. That says a lot about this university. They could have loved their teammates, and loved me, but if they didn't enjoy waking up every morning and walking across this campus and being a part of this school, they wouldn't have stayed. It says a lot about their experience at Oklahoma State. They enjoy going to school every day, not just playing basketball. Many players make the decision to leave college because they don't want to go to school anymore, they're tired of going to class and they're ready to move on. These guys, I believe, chose to stay for the right reasons."
Freshman guard Phil Forte on team's reaction to decisions
"We are just as excited, if not more, than these guys. They sacrificed so much. Everyone knows they had the opportunity to go to the next level and play. They gave up the money and fame to come back another year. We can't wait to get back to work. We had a great season last year, but of course it didn't end the way we wanted it to. That's obviously something that's in the back of our mind, but it goes past basketball. These three guys are great people and we are all great friends. I think I speak for all the guys when I say that the best thing about them coming back is that we get to spend another year together."
Ford on scheduling for next season
"We've got to be smart on who we schedule. Most of the time, we've gotten it right. There's been a year or two that we haven't gotten it right as far as nonconference scheduling. You want to prepare your team for conference play and we are going to continue to try to do that. As you can imagine, my phone has been blowing up this morning with opportunities; people wanting us to play in this or that. We just need to step back and evaluate. There are some things already in place, but there is some flexibility at this point. We just need to figure out what is best for this basketball team to help us to prepare and get better as the season goes along. We don't want to just be great in the month of December. We want to try to be great in the month of March and April.”