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Travis Ford on MFB: Marcus Smart ‘just a warrior’

06.30.14 at 2:49 pm ET
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Oklahoma State basketball coach Travis Ford joined Middays with MFB Monday afternoon to discuss his former player, Marcus Smart, who was taken by the Celtics with the sixth overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft. To listen to the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

While Smart has been praised for his defense, passing, leadership and ability to drive to the basket, the Texas native was punished this past season for shoving a fan during the closing seconds of Oklahoma State’€™s 65-61 loss against Texas Tech on Feb. 8. Ford said the incident is a non-issue going forward.

“That seems like it has passed. … For a solid week or two, that’€™s all that was being talked about,”€ Ford said. “€œI hated it for the kid. There’€™s no question that he made a mistake and he’€™s the first one that would admit it. … It was just a moment in time –€“ a two- to three-second moment in time — that does not define Marcus whatsoever.”

Ford added that Smart, who averaged 18.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 32.7 minutes a game as a sophomore in 2013-14, will bring a lot of attributes to the parquet floor.

“I think they just loved his competitiveness. Marcus is a winner,”€ Ford said. “€œThere’€™s not many players period that I’ve ever been associated with that are as competitive as he is on a daily basis. He has a motor that just doesn’t quit. … He’s all about giving it everything he’s got and trying to win whatever it is. … Marcus is just a warrior, and I think that’€™s what impressed [Boston] the most.”

Smart put the college basketball world on notice during his freshman season with the Cowboys, averaging 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists en route to being named a first-team All-American by Sporting News and a unanimous selection as Big 12 Player of the Year.

Despite his success and the certainty of being one of the top picks in a weak 2013 draft, Smart chose to spend another season at Oklahoma State — a decision Ford said was made for a multitude of reasons.

“Obviously, he had the option to come out last season,” Ford said. “He would have been probably a top-three pick and everybody was telling him how crazy he was for not coming out because this year’€™s draft was going to be so much tougher and he just kind of laughed it off. … He embraces competition. … There were a lot of reasons he stayed. Yes, one reason was that he wanted to work on his shooting, work on ball handling.

“He really wanted to play the point guard position and it became very natural for him. We made him a point guard. He never really played point guard until he got Oklahoma State and I kind of brought him in and said, ‘€œHey, you are going to be the point guard,’€ and he obviously had an incredible two seasons. More than anything, the reason he stayed is he just wanted another year of college — just the whole experience of being in college.”

While critics have pointed out that Smart has struggled with his outside shooting during his collegiate career (29.9 percent from 3-point range in 2013-14), Ford said that Smart should morph into a capable shooter with more experience in the NBA.

“Marcus has great form, and his percentages are going to go way up, I believe, in the NBA,”€ Ford said. “€œHe took a lot of tough shots for us, there’€™s not doubt about that. A lot of tough shots. Obviously, that is going to affect your shooting percentage greatly. … I think he will be a very good shooter. … Is he going to be a guy that’€™s just going to take a ton of 3′s every single game and just be known for his shooting? I don’€™t know about that. But he will become a very good shooter, because he has great form and technique.”

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Read More: Celtics, Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, Travis Ford
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