Marcus Smart has declared for the 2014 NBA draft.
It's not official, of course, but Smart made his intentions known to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, saying that "barring injury" he will leave Oklahoma State after his sophomore season.
"It's safe to say that if, by the grace of God I'm healthy and everything, this will be my last year at Oklahoma State," Smart told Spears during USA Basketball's minicamp practice Tuesday at UNLV. "Nothing will change my mind on that. [Oklahoma State] understands. They didn't figure I was coming back this year. They were just as surprised as everyone else."
This is no surprise. It was already assumed that he would be gone after next year, although, to be fair, it was assumed he would jet after his freshman season when Smart was expected to be one of the top picks in the 2013 draft.
By declaring his intentions now, Smart does not have to answer questions all next season about whether he'll declare in 2014. He can simply focus on what he returned to do—enjoy college for one more year and win big at Oklahoma State.
Typically, this before-the-season-announcement would make most coaches feel uneasy, and an incoming freshman, even if it were Andrew Wiggins, should probably shy away from such an early announcement.
Would it shock everyone if Wiggins returned to Kansas as a sophomore? Yes. But he also should prove himself at the college level before he considers himself a pro.
Smart did prove himself as a freshman—winning Big 12 Player of the Year and turning a mediocre defensive team into one of the best defenses in the country. No one would have criticized Smart for leaving in 2013. It was expected. And when he bucked the trend, some thought he was crazy.
But Smart wanted to do things on his terms.
"You can only go to college and be a college athlete once," Smart told Spears. "College is a great experience. This is where you have fun. This is where you find yourself as a young man and grow up into an adult before you enter the real world.
"The NBA is the real world. Everyone just sees the entertainment part, but there is a business part to it also."
After reading that, it's hard to bet against the guy. He has a vision for what his path should be and not once has he turned down an opportunity that he thinks will prepare him for the future—from staying one more year at Oklahoma State to playing in the U-19 FIBA World Championship to accepting the invite to the USA Basketball minicamp.
Should Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford worry that Smart will play next season with one eye on the NBA? No.
Smart is different. And he earned the right to make his intentions known this summer. By doing so, he made it less of a distraction.