High School: Oklahoma State

Keep an eye on these Big 12 area products

May, 9, 2012

ESPN.com Big 12 blogger David Ubben says Baylor QB Nick Florence of South Garland, Oklahoma State WR Josh Stewart of Denton Guyer and Texas RB Joe Bergeron of North Mesquite are three players to watch in the Big 12 this year.

Smart named ESPNHS first-team All-American

April, 18, 2012
Marcus Smart's basketball-playing days at Flower Mound Marcus are done, but he hasn't stopped earning honors.

The Oklahoma State-bound senior guard was selected to the ESPNHS All-American first team Wednesday.

Smart, who led the Marauders to a second consecutive Class 5A state championship, had previously been named the Texas Gatorade Player of the Year and a McDonald's All-American.

Two area players from private school powers were named to the ESPNHS All-American second team: Plano Prestonwood Christian junior forward Julius Randle and Arlington Grace Prep senior center Isaiah Austin.

Randle helped Prestonwood win the TAPPS 5A state championship to cap a season during which the Lions won the prestigious City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla.

Austin, a Baylor recruit, led Grace Prep to its second straight TAPPS 4A title and joined Smart at the McDonald's All-American game.

Find more on the ESPNHS All-American team.

FM Marcus' Forte wins national 3-point contest

April, 2, 2012
Flower Mound Marcus sharpshooter Phil Forte won the U.S. Marines Boys’ 3-Point Championship, a national contest held over the weekend in Chicago.

The contest won by Forte was part of the American Family Insurance High School Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships, an event for high school seniors which will be broadcast at 3:30 p.m. CT Sunday on CBS.

Forte, an Oklahoma State recruit, was the MVP of the 2012 Class 5A state championship game last month, when Marcus beat Fort Bend Travis.

Marcus, by the way, finished at No. 5 in the final ESPNHS Powerade FAB 50 of the season.

Arlington Grace Prep star Isaiah Austin fell right into the rhythm of the 2012 McDonald’s All-American game with ease.

In what turned out to be a dunkfest from both squads, Austin flushed several put-back dunks as part of his 10 points and eight rebounds on the night, leading to a 106-102 victory for his West team.

The Baylor commit added two assists and one steal to his final line in 17 minutes of play and looked right at home in the Baylor-esque green and neon yellow West squad uniforms.

Austin came off the bench in the first wave of substitutions in the first half and began his scoring by gathering up a loose ball around the free throw line and hitting a fadeaway jumper.

On the other end of the spectrum was Flower Mound Marcus’ Marcus Smart, who didn’t hit a field goal on the night and finished with one point in 20 minutes.

However, he did have an impact in other areas, pulling down six rebounds and dishing out five assists, including one alley-oop lob to game MVP and No. 2 recruit Shabazz Muhammad out of Las Vegas.

Muhammad, who is still uncommitted, claimed the award with a 21-point, six-rebound performance.

The West squad jumped to a 21-point lead in the second half, but the East rallied to within four points. One last defensive stop, with both Austin and Smart on the bench, held off the East attack to secure the win.

Five area stars in tonight's McDonald's games

March, 28, 2012
Five area basketball players will be in the national spotlight tonight at the McDonald's All-American games in Chicago.

Flower Mound Marcus' Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) and Arlington Grace Prep's Isaiah Austin (Baylor) are on the West team of the boys game, which tips off at 8:30 p.m. CT on ESPN and ESPN3.com.

Three area players are in the West team of the girls game, which starts at 6 p.m. CT on ESPNU and ESPN3.com: home-schooler Moriah Jefferson (Connecticut) of Glenn Heights, Irving MacArthur's Alexis Jones (Duke) and DeSoto's Jordan Jones (Texas A&M).

ESPN.com's recruiting and high school experts will be holding a live chat during the game.
So much can happen to a high school athlete in just a year’s time.

Flower Mound Marcus basketball standout Marcus Smart headed into the 2011 boys state tournament dealing with all of the attention being one of the nation's top recruits entailed.

He also had just received closure in an off-the-court investigation into the motives of his transfer to Marcus – which, of course, was ruled in his favor.

Boys brackets: 5A »   4A »
Girls brackets: 5A »   4A »
State tournament: Girls » Boys »
Smart, with a hand from his teammates, overcame these distractions in Marcus’ 40-38 win over Garland Lakeview Centennial in the Class 5A championship game. He notched a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds and was named the title game MVP.

Since then, Smart committed to Oklahoma State and earned a selection for the prestigious McDonald's All-America game. And now, Smart and the Marauders have the chance to repeat as state champions minus all the distractions on the periphery.

“He’s always been mature beyond his years,” Marcus coach Danny Henderson said. “He’s an even better player this year than last year because of his work ethic.”

Marcus returns four of its five starters from last year’s championship game, three of which signed D1 scholarships in the offseason. Forte will join Smart at Oklahoma State, while Nick Banyard will head to New Mexico.

However, there is a legitimate case in saying Marcus would not be back in Austin for the third straight year if it weren’t for Smart.

In this year's regional final against South Grand Prairie, Smart stepped up and blocked Jovan Austin’s bid for a 3-pointer as time expired to preserve Marcus' 39-38 win, punching the ticket to Austin.

“He loves to compete more than anyone I’ve ever known in my life,” Henderson said “He lives for this stuff.”

While Smart leads the charge on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, it’s evident by his actions on and off the court that he actually lives for his teammates – who make up quite a supporting cast.

Smart’s point guard and best friend Phil Forte actually leads the team scoring with almost 15 points a game and can be a sniper from 3-point range.

Banyard can spark the Marauders with a big 3 or by jamming down an alley-oop off a back-door cut and can create offense by being another big body in the post, gathering in rebounds.

Guard A.J. Luckey has flown under the radar, overshadowed by Marcus’ big three, but has taken games on his shoulders this season by driving to the lane and finishing acrobatic layups.

At this weekend's state tournament, the Marauders will have to deal with targets on their back and high expectations as the defending champions.

To counter this throughout the year, Henderson instilled a plan into his team that would make Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett proud – taking everything one day at a time.

“Because of those expectations, we took a minefield mentality,” Henderson said. “As you walk into a minefield, trying to get to the top of a hill, you don’t dare look up at the third and fourth step up in front of you. You just look at the next step and that’s all we focus on.”

The first obstacle in Marcus’ two-step to state comes Friday night against Garland Naaman Forest. The Rangers flew under the radar through the regular season but peaked when it counted in the playoffs, making them one of the hottest teams headed to Austin.

“They are similar to Connecticut in the way they rolled through the playoffs,” Henderson said, referring to last year's NCAA champion. “That’s what UConn did last year and that’s what these guys did and, quite frankly, that’s all that matters. Naaman Forest may be playing the best out of [all the 5A state tournament teams] right now.”

With this weekend’s trip to Austin being Marcus’ third in as many years, Henderson isn’t worried that his team will be caught up in the mystique of the event. But that doesn't make it any less special for the coach.

“There’s great coaches sitting in that audience that never get the opportunity to coach in Austin,” Henderson said. “It’s a humbling experience because I’ve been so fortunate and so blessed.”

Marcus overcomes slow start to pull out win

December, 28, 2011
HALTOM CITY, Texas -- The always-precise machine that is the Flower Mound Marcus basketball team hit a kink in the system Wednesday.

Marcus had to overcome a 23-22 halftime deficit against Justin Northwest to pull out a 45-38 win and advance in the winners bracket of the Whataburger Tournament.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Smart
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comMarcus Smart didn't start as punishment for arriving late to practice, but FM Marcus was able to rally for a win.
Marcus experienced a Christmas break hangover and, for the first time in a long time, did not come to the game ready to excel, coach Danny Henderson said.

It is a problem Henderson has little experience encountering with this team.

“I’ve been with them 98 games, I think, and I’m going to say they’ve been ready to play 94 times," Henderson said. "They’ve been amazing in that respect and that’s the only reason I’m not going ballistic on them. They’ve built up a big bank account in that regard."

Marcus was out-hustled by Northwest in the first quarter but got a kick-start in the second quarter when Marcus Smart came off the bench and entered the game for the first time. Smart and A.J. Luckey sat out the first quarter for arriving 17 minutes late to a practice Tuesday before the tournament.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” Henderson said. “He and A.J. have never been late to anything, but they were late and there is going to be discipline. They overslept.”

Marcus’ big three -- Smart, Forte and Nick Banyard -- accounted for just 30 points, well below the average for the trio. However, it still accounted for 67 percent of Marcus’ offense in the low-scoring affair.

Marcus’ defense came up big in the third quarter, holding Northwest to just two points while the offense struggled to net six points of its own. Marcus outscored Northwest 17-13 in the fourth to salvage the win.

“Our defense was phenomenal in the third quarter and overall,” Henderson said. “They [Northwest] got 38 points and they had two in the third quarter. Defense wasn’t the problem.”

Henderson wasn't too upset with his team’s performance after the game because he said he also was not as prepared as he could have been for the opening-round game.

Banyard, who hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter, was not given an opportunity to spot up again later in the game. Henderson instead tried to get him backdoor lobs, having him slash to the basket on the opposite side of the court from the ball. He even went so far as to apologize to Banyard for the mistake in the middle of his postgame interview.

The defending 5A state champion and No. 4 team in the nation is held to a standard of playing near-perfect basketball in every outing, but it is sometimes easy to forget about the attention Marcus receives, Smart said.

“It is a little bit until teams come out and [start] doing stuff that you weren’t expecting them to do, that you know they could do, but they’re doing everything that you’ve been told they can do,” Smart said “It brings you back to reality and you remember the name on your jersey.”

In the end, Marcus made the adjustments necessary to compensate for a slow start and a frigid offense and move into the winners bracket to take on Richland at 11 a.m. Thursday. Marcus can't afford another slow start against Richland's high-speed, up-tempo offense.

“Their floor-spacing creates a lot of problems for any defense,” Henderson said. “We’re going to have to be on top of our game. We’re going to have to be ready tomorrow.”

For Smart, Henderson and all of the Marcus squad, Wednesday’s game appears to be a thing of the past and Henderson learned that even the most reliable machines break down every once and a while.

“You start thinking they're machines and superhuman or something and they're not -- they're kids. They have girlfriends, they have Christmas and ate too much turkey or something,” Henderson said with a chuckle.

Gray has respect from Marcus basketball pals

December, 16, 2011
LEWISVILLE, Texas -- Imagine a basketball team that combined Marcus Smart, Phil Forte and ... Johnathan Gray?

Well, it happened ... for the past 10 years.

These three North Texas and national athletic standouts grew up playing AAU basketball together every summer since they were in the third grade.

It formed a tight enough friendship that Gray, ranked No. 5 on the ESPNU 150 for football, made the long trek to Lewisville from Aledo on Thursday to watch his buddies take on Montrose Christian in front of ESPN cameras just two days before Gray’s final high school game in the 4A Division I state championship.

“I came out to watch my brothers play,” said Gray, a Texas commit. “I was lucky enough to play AAU basketball with these guys.”

Smart is the No. 11 national basketball recruit for the Class of 2012 and has committed to Oklahoma State. Forte will join him at OSU.

The love will be returned Saturday, not only Forte and Smart, but by the whole Marcus basketball team.

Marcus coach Danny Henderson canceled the team’s weekly Saturday morning practice so the whole squad can travel to Cowboys Stadium for Gray and Aledo’s big game, even though Marcus has its first district game next week.

“I know that’s crazy because we have Plano West coming, but it’s invaluable for my kids to be around that state championship atmosphere, especially when they know Johnathan and some other Aledo players,” Henderson said.

Gray, who broke the Texas single-season touchdown record in last season’s state final and is looking to break several national records Saturday, has an even deeper connection with the Marcus basketball team than just his friendship with Forte and Smart. He filled the role as the team’s motivation speaker last season.

“Last year, before our biggest regular season game, Johnathan came into the locker room and talked to the guys and got them jacked up,” Henderson said. “It was really cool. He’s a great kid.”

So can arguably the greatest high school football player in Texas history also play basketball?

“You ought to see him lock down somebody on defense,” Henderson said. “It’s amazing. He might be the best deny defender I’ve ever seen. His man can’t catch it. It is amazing to watch him deny someone. You can’t screen him because he’s so strong and quick and whoever he’s guarding can’t catch the ball.”

“I’ve never seen a kid play as hard as he does,” Forte said. “He just goes, goes, goes. We call him the Energizer Bunny. He just has a motor that I’ve never seen another player have.”

Gray is so respected by his basketball-playing friends that even Smart said a one-on-one game between the two would be a close battle.

“You know how built Johnathan is, and him using that muscle that he has and that athleticism ... It would be a challenge,” Smart said. “I think I would come out of that with my basketball skills, but it would be a good match.”

Smart and Forte also claim to have predicted Gray’s rise to greatness on the gridiron.

“We always knew coming out when we were younger, just to see this dude out here playing,” Smart said. “We knew he was going to do great things in the future with his football school.”

A few state records and two state championships later, Gray has fulfilled Smart’s prophecy.

Gray is a touchdown away from holding the national record for career touchdowns and 21 points shy of the national point record, both held by Michael Hart of University of Michigan and Indianapolis Colts fame.

Gray banged up his knee in Aledo’s semifinal game against Corsicana last week, but he said despite some swelling, the injury hasn’t kept him from practicing.

“It’s a little swollen, and we don’t really know what’s wrong with it because the swelling keeps coming back," Gray said. "We'll just drain it and see what happens."

After Gray moves on to play for the Texas Longhorns, he'll look forward to the playful banter to come from his then-Big 12 rivals – Forte and Smart.

“Next year, I think [the Longhorns] play in Stillwater, so it will be fun,” Forte said. “I’ll get to go check Johnathan play.”

FLOWER MOUND, Texas -- Oklahoma State is getting a set of basketball twins from Flower Mound Marcus next season.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Smart, Phil Forte and Nick Banyard
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comMarcus Smart and Phil Forte will continue their longtime basketball connection at Oklahoma State. Meanwhile, FM Marcus teammate Nick Banyard is heading to New Mexico.
They're not be related by blood, but the connection Marcus Smart and Phil Forte have on the court goes well beyond teammates or even friendship.

“We got to a point where I could tell where he was on the court without even looking at him and vice versa with him,” Smart said. “We have a perfect feel for each other. It’s like that twin telepathy for each other -- when a twin can feel what the other is feeling -- that’s what me and Phil have on the court.”

Both signed letters of intent Wednesday to play together at Oklahoma State, continuing a streak of seasons they have been teammates that began in the third grade.

“It’s great knowing every time you go out to practice -- to work -- you have your brother beside you,” Forte said. “We’ve been through so much together, good times and bad. Playing four more years with him in college will just make it that much better.”

Forte said Oklahoma State was an easy sell because he loved the way he fit into the Cowboys' system as a point guard, especially after watching Keiton Page thrive in Stillwater.

Once Smart -- the ESPNU No. 11 recruit in the nation for his class -- found Oklahoma State to be a good fit as well, the decision was simple.

So family, friends and teammates gathered outside of Marauder Gym on Wednesday morning to watch Smart, Forte and Nick Banyard, a New Mexico commit, ink their pledge to play college ball.

While signing the letter of intent was a moment each savored, there was no question who won the contest of signing their name the required four times first.

“Marcus finished first and we gave him a hard time because he doesn’t know how to not finish first in anything in his life,” Forte said.

More: ESPNHS All-Texas basketball team

Top TE recruits, including Guyer's Ramacher

June, 17, 2011

ESPN Recruiting analyst Craig Haubert takes a look at the top tight end prospects of 2012, including Denton Guyer's Dominic Ramacher.

Here's a snippet of the report on Ramacher:
The Oklahoma State commit is not a prototypical tight end in the mold of the two prospects rated above him, but he is versatile, athletic and a tough football player. He is listed as a tight end but is a diverse prospect at the position who can and likely will move around on offense at the college level.

To read more about the top TE prospects of 2012, click here.

Matchups to watch in McDonald's AA game

March, 29, 2011
ESPN Recruiting previewed the key matchups for Wednesday night's McDonald's All-American Game, which tips off at 9 p.m. CT and can be seen on ESPN.

Here's what was written about the challenge West forward LeBryan Nash of Dallas Lincoln, the Powerade Jam Fest dunk champion, will face against the East's Chane Behanan of Bowling Green, Ky.
Behanan, a Louisville signee, is a bruising power forward. He is skilled enough to take the ball off the bounce from the wing into the paint to score. He is a solid athlete that generally out-efforts his opponent. He will try and bully Nash in the paint, however the Oklahoma State signee and Powerade Jam Fest winner is a skilled combo forward who can operate equally well on the perimeter or in the paint. Nash will try and take Behanan on the perimeter where he is less comfortable and either shoot from range or take him off the dribble.

Lincoln's Nash in McDonald's AA game spotlight

March, 28, 2011
With the McDonald's All-American Game coming up Wednesday (ESPN, 9 p.m. CT), ESPN Recruiting takes a look at the most interesting practice matchups.

One matchup spotlighted is between Dallas Lincoln's LeBryan Nash, an Oklahoma State signee, and Michigan State-bound Branden Dawson of Gary, Ind.

Here's the breakdown of the West team wing players:
When it comes to wing players with all the physical gifts these two players are at the top of the list. Both are highlight reels waiting to happen on the break who rebound in and out of their area on both ends of the floor. The advantage in the rebounding department goes to Dawson, a Michigan State signee, but Nash is more skilled and aggressive to score and make things happen. It will be interesting to see if Nash, an Oklahoma State signee, can keep Dawson off the glass and if Dawson can keep Nash from getting to the rim. Some bruises and blood could surface in this powerful wing matchup.

Read more about the anticipated practice matchups here.

Dallas Lincoln rises past SOC in 2 OT

March, 2, 2011
DALLAS -- Dallas Lincoln star and McDonald’s All-American LeBryan Nash saved his team’s season Wednesday.

Nash hit a 3-pointer as regulation expired to force overtime against Dallas South Oak Cliff in their regional quarterfinal and had a career-high 43 points to lead the Tigers to an 85-78 double-overtime win.

Lincoln moves on to the regional semifinals Friday in Garland.

Leading 59-57, SOC guard Exzavia Seaton made one out of two free throws, leaving the door open for Nash to take the inbounds pass the length of the floor and fire up a running 3 in traffic to keep the game alive.

In that clutch moment, Nash’s motivation was simple.

“This is my senior year, I’ve got to win a state championship. All the great players won a state championship, so I’ve got to win one. My teammates believe in me, so I took that shot. I knew it had a chance to go in, so I took it and it went in.”

Nash also has a believer in head coach Leonard Bishop.

“When you’ve got a guy like LeBryan, you know he comes up with big shots and in crunch time he always comes through for us and he did a great job,” Bishop said.

With just over a minute left in the game, Nash was at the free throw line with 38 points on the board next to his number. After hitting the first one, he consulted his teammates then gave the scoreboard a glance before sinking the 40th point. With a smile after the game, Nash claimed he didn’t know the exact number of points he had tallied but was filled in toward the end of the game by his teammates.

“I knew I had a lot of points, but I didn’t really care,” Nash said. “My teammate told me, ‘You’ll hit 40 on the free throws,’ when I hit it.”

Bishop said the team’s motto through out the season has been “Motivated to win,” and throughout the game Nash chanted the mantra to his teammates, aimed not only to win that game, but the ultimate prize for his senior year.

“I really want to win a state championship. I really want my team to be happy. They believe in me and they believe in the All-American stuff.”

All six Irv. MacArthur signees are leaving Texas

February, 2, 2011
Icy roads prevented Irving MacArthur’s plans for a live streaming of National Signing Day.

“It is disappointing because it is such a big day not only for the kids, but for our teachers and counselors that play such a big role,’’ said MacArthur football coach Brian Basil.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Haynes
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comIrving MacArthur running back/receiver Johnny Haynes is on his way to Oklahoma State.
When the weather is better, Basil hopes for a redo for the school’s 11 Signing Day athletes, including six football players.

With the ceremony on hold, Basil took to the road to deliver the documents Wednesday.

“For the kids to be able to sign in their homes was nice, too,’’ Basil said. “And I was able to do it without getting a dent in my truck.’’

All six Cardinals football players are leaving the state. The most prominent are defensive back Jalen Brown to Notre Dame and running back/wide receiver Johnny Haynes to Oklahoma State. Haynes rushed for 1,098 yards and had 476 as a receiver.

“The Dallas/Fort Worth area is a hotbed and we’re seeing more and more national recruiting,’’ Basil said. “We used to see Notre Dame a lot, then we didn’t for a few years, and now they are coming back since Brian Kelly became coach.’’

Basil said the current recruiting crop was aided by Cardinals who came before them.

“When college assistants come in the spring to see one group of kids, they also see the underclassmen.’’

J.W. Walsh enrolls early at Oklahoma State

January, 12, 2011
Denton Guyer quarterback J.W. Walsh, ESPNDallas.com's Class 5A MVP after leading the Wildcats to the Division II state final, has enrolled at Oklahoma State and will take part in spring drills with the Cowboys.

Plano West offensive lineman Travis Cross is also enrolled at Stillwater to get an early start on his college career.

Walsh and Cross are among five mid-year scholarship additions for Oklahoma State, which lost just 12 seniors from an 11-2 team.