Last season Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart shocked the entire basketball world when he decided to return to Stillwater for a sophomore campaign. In a year in which he had taken home Big 12 Player of the Year, Big 12 Freshman of the Year, and unanimous first team all-conference honors, Smart had NBA scouts salivating about the prospect of drafting him. But against all odds, Smart turned his back on the NBA and decided it could wait another season. He wanted to enjoy the college atmosphere for another year and he wanted to compensate for OSU’s disappointing first round exit from the NCAA Tournament. It was hard to turn down the guaranteed money for what would have most likely been a top-five selection, but he did and here we are. Oklahoma State currently sits at 15-3 and is ranked 11th in the national polls, but a 3-2 start in Big 12 play means that the Cowboys are likely to spend the rest of the winter looking up at Kansas in the league standings. Smart has impressed individually as well — he’s a bona fide All-American — but he will be facing a much deeper field in this year’s NBA Draft if he decides two years is enough. This brings us to a similar situation in which a star freshman who is all but guaranteed a top-five draft slot has rumors swirling that he too is considering not making the jump.
Duke’s Jabari Parker is not Marcus Smart; they don’t play the game the same way or even the same position. But they are both incredibly talented underclassmen shouldering an intense offensive burden for Top 25 teams. In Parker’s case, whispers have been mounting over the past few weeks — most recently with Parker’s dad, Sonny — suggesting that Parker has yet to make up his mind about his future. Perhaps a typical reaction from a confidant, advisor, or family member, Parker and his team are wise to desire minimal distractions during Duke’s season. But after Duke landed the top overall recruiting class for 2014, fans and pundits alike began dreaming up scenarios of potential Duke lineups that include Parker along with top 10 prospects Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, five-star prospect Justise Winslow and fringe five-star recruit Grayson Allen. For an individual who has said that he hopes to leave a legacy at Duke as one of the all-time greats, Parker will only be able to do so if he brings home another title to Durham.