Posted by BHayes on July 26th, 2013
Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.
Come October and November, when Midnight Madness gives way to preseason games and then eventually the real thing, much of the narrative will center around how the summer was spent. A trip overseas will have brought a team together, leaving them poised to improve upon the season prior. A special opportunity with a particular team or clinic will change a coach’s perspective, or a new diet and workout plan gives the once-heralded recruit one last chance to pan out. We hear all these stories each and every fall, so consider yourself forgiven if you are left a bit skeptical with every summer update. It’s because you are right — many will end up as irrelevant activities, artificial confidence boosters to help raise morale at the outset of a new season. But don’t discount them all. Countless players and teams will have improved themselves in the six months between One Shining Moment and Midnight Madness, and after their stay at the Team USA camp in Las Vegas, Marcus Smart and Doug McDermott look like two prime examples this go-around.
Between Leading The USA U-19 Team To Gold And Making An Appearance At Team USA Camp This Week, Marcus Smart Has Had Himself A Busy Summer
Smart has had an interesting offseason. He shocked the basketball world by deciding to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season, in the process tossing aside his presumed status as a top-five pick in this year’s draft. Before getting to Vegas he led the USA U-19 team to gold in Prague – a fine start to the summer, indeed. But his two days facing off against some of the best young players in the NBA provided a unique opportunity – one only afforded him and McDermott among those in the college ranks – and left him knowing he can play with NBA talent. Just listen to what Smart told SI’s Andy Glockner and tell me if you think his Team USA camp didn’t provide his confidence a shot in the arm – “It just lets me know that I decided to go back to college, but I can come out here and perform with these guys… Not trying to be cocky or anything, but I’m out here performing against top-level guys and competing and doing things that I’ve done in college and beyond, but I’m doing them on a bigger stage against guys who have competed against the LeBrons and Kobes.” Smart himself admitted to harboring loads of self-doubt in the weeks following his decision to go back to school, and with nearly everyone wondering aloud what he was doing, how could he not? But the NBA will still be there next season and the year after, and Smart should now know better than ever that he will be well-equipped to thrive there – no matter when he arrives.
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