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Tuesday, July 16, 2013
USA Basketball loves Marcus Smart

By Eamonn Brennan

Though there may still be room for USA Basketball's talent development apparatus to improve and expand -- as John Infante writes today, the landscape is begging for a hoops academy akin to U.S. Soccer's development school -- the highest levels really are a well-oiled machine.

Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski always have their list of unimpeachable national team selections, players like LeBron James and Chris Paul. But they are always on the lookout for young talent, too. This is especially true in off-years, when there are no Olympics on the immediate horizon. The net ends up being a win both for USA Basketball and for basketball in the U.S. The number of young players that emerged from the 2010 FIBA World Championships as bona fide NBA stars is a perfect example. This confluence can work for everyone.

Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart is the only non-NBA player invited to Team USA's minicamp in Las Vegas this month.
From July 22-25, Team USA is holding its annual minicamp in Las Vegas, which will include a handful of closed practices followed by an event-ending showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV. Still one year removed from the 2014 FIBAs, and three years away from the next Olympics, this summer is all about young talent -- collecting it in one place, drilling with Coach K and the rest of Team USA's staff, and starting to think about which group should make up the next young-ish batch of players at the FIBA World Championships.

Naturally, all of these players are in the NBA. There is just one exception: Marcus Smart.

Yes, the Oklahoma State rising sophomore -- national freshman and Big 12 player of the year in 2012-13 -- is the only non-NBA player invited to take part in minicamp in Las Vegas this month. Even more impressive: Team USA didn't invite a single player from this year's draft. Everyone else on the list -- which you can see in full here -- has played at least one full season in the NBA, and oftentimes several.

Naturally, Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford is thrilled with this development.

"We're very excited for Marcus," Ford said in a release. "It's an incredible honor to be the lone college player to be selected. It's a great honor for him and our program. He continues to represent us in a first-class manner, both on and off the court."

That he does. It's been a long time since Oklahoma State had a player as talented as Smart, sure, but when's the last time it had a player this good at representing himself and his associations to the public? Smart's talent, as impressive as it is, is only half the story. No doubt Colangelo had that in mind when he selected Smart, who is coming off a 9-0 run to win the U19 FIBA Worlds this summer in the Czech Republic, where he averaged 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 2.4 steals per game while shooting 50.0 percent from the field. He was also the team captain. Is it any wonder Team USA counts itself among his fans?