WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – Oklahoma State University men’s basketball standout, Marcus Smart, crossed the line Saturday night when he shoved a Texas Tech fan en route to a 65-61 loss to the unranked opponent.
After the Cowboys turned the ball over on their final possession, Smart tracked down Texas Tech’s Jaye Crockett and committed a foul from behind with 6.2 seconds remaining. The presumed future lottery pick then proceeded to enter the first row of the stands; an act that has not been witnessed since the infamous “Malice at the Palace” in 2004.
This time, the results were not as violent; but for Smart, they could be just as costly. For a player who has already been accused of “flopping” several times this season, in addition to kicking a chair during a season low four point performance versus West Virginia, the latest incident could scare off future NBA suitors.
According to an ESPN report, one current NBA general manager believes that the situation will affect Smart’s draft stock. On the other hand, another unnamed GM believes [Smart] is “too good a kid” for his draft stock to be affected by the incident. Perhaps the fire behind Smart’s outbursts of late have resulted from his inconsistent and sometimes poor play. Over his last five games, Smart has yet to shoot above 50 percent from the field; including the aforementioned West Virginia game where he shot 1-7, and Baylor where he shot 3-14 from the field.
The burning question now has revolved around what the fan, Jeff Orr, said to incite such a reaction. A New York Daily News article reports that Orr, despite being known as a Texas Tech “superfan” for traveling over 30,000 in a season to watch the Red Raiders play, has been known to taunt opposing players. For example, Orr was caught on video performing an obscene gesture to Texas A&M’s Byron Davis during a game in 2010.
Smart claims that Orr called him a racial slur. Conversely, Orr said in a conversation with college basketball analyst, Doug Gottlieb, that he said something that he should not have; but it was not the N-word. It was later reported on the ESPN networks through a statement from Orr that he called Smart a “piece of crap.” He also has decided to forgo attending Texas Tech basketball games for the rest of the season; a surprising proposition considering no foul language or racial slurs were used.
The Big 12 Conference Commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, has since evaluated the incident and has decided to suspend Smart for the next three games. Smart spoke with the media at 6 p.m. Sunday and apologized for his actions, claiming, “That’s not me, that’s not how I was raised.”
With him out the next three games, the Cowboys’ NCAA Tournament hopes could be in jeopardy. In addition to losing starting big man, Michael Cobbins, for the season due to injury, point guard Stevie Clark was dismissed from the team earlier this week after his third disciplinary issue this season. Clark was a key contributor especially through the team’s first four games where he led the team with 20 assists and provided relief for Smart at the point guard position.
Dan Gunderman, Editor of The Verge, and former Assistant Sports Editor at The Outlook said, that the event is “deeply concerning,” and “for a team which is 16-7 and looking to remain relevant in the Big 12, it’s never a good time to lose an almost 18 p.p.g. scorer, especially in such a grotesque manner.”
So, if there’s any consolation, and if history has not taught us yet, sports fans now really know how detrimental it can be to see players converse with fans.
Moving forward: Oklahoma State will travel to Austin tonight, where they will take on #15 Texas, a team coming off of an embarrassing 17 point loss to Kansas State. OSU will be without Smart, their leading scorer, and Markel Brown will have to rise to the occasion, to counter the loss of the sophomore guard.
Games against #21 Oklahoma and Baylor also remain before they host Texas Tech on Feb. 22 for a chance to avenge the loss to the Tubby Smith-led Red Raiders.
Dan Gunderman helped contribute statistics/analyses to this report.