Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 10, 2014

Oklahoma State's Smart banned for three games

Wire, staff reports
Associated Press

STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart was suspended three games Sunday by the Big 12 for shoving a fan in the closing seconds of the Cowboys’ loss at Texas Tech only hours earlier.

The Big 12 acted swiftly in banning the All-America guard, saying in a statement the penalty was handed down for “inappropriate conduct with a spectator.”

Smart apologized to the fan, his family and team for his actions before coach Travis Ford expressed support for the sophomore without dismissing the severity of the player’s actions.

“This is not how I conduct myself. This is not how the program is run. This is not how I was raised. I let my emotions get the best of me,” Smart said.

“It’s something I’ll have to learn from, a lesson I’ll have to learn from. The consequences that are coming with it — I’m taking full responsibility. No fingers pointing — this is all upon me.”

Smart will miss games against Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor. He can return for the Cowboys’ Feb. 22 home game against Texas Tech. But Ford said Smart will be allowed to practice.

Late in Saturday night’s game at Lubbock, Texas, Smart shoved Tech fan Jeff Orr with two hands after it appeared the Red Raiders fan said something to the NBA prospect. Teammates quickly pulled Smart away as he pointed back in Orr’s direction.

Texas Tech released a statement saying they conducted a thorough investigation.

Orr denied making a racial slur and Tech says the evidence backs up Orr’s statement.

Orr, who attends many Tech games a year, has voluntarily agreed to not attend any Red Raiders home or away games for the remainder of the season, the statement said.

“I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere apologies to Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, Tubby Smith and the Texas Tech Men’s Basketball program,” Orr said in the statement.

“My actions last night were inappropriate and do not reflect myself or Texas Tech — a university I love dearly.  I regret calling Mr. Smart a ‘piece of crap’ but I want to make it known that I did not use a racial slur of any kind.”  

Considered one of the best all-around players in the country, Smart has showed frustration more than once during an inconsistent season.

The sophomore guard got off to a fantastic start, leading to speculation that he could be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft this year. He has struggled in some recent games, though, including a four-point effort against West Virginia when he kicked a chair on the bench.

That led to him apologizing to his teammates afterward.

But Ford felt this incident was unprecedented for Smart.

“Marcus Smart made a big mistake last night. He knows that,” Ford said. “I know Marcus Smart. Pretty much been around him on a daily basis for two years.

“Undoubtedly, last night was not one of his finest moments. But he’s had a lot of fine moments as a player and as a person.”

With members of the Oklahoma State basketball team on hand — both players, coaches and support staff — Smart spoke for just over a minute and did not field questions from the media.

He said, “I feel like I let my teammates down. These guys mean a lot to me and not to be able to be out there with them hits me in my heart. I have a lot of people who look up to me, a lot of little kids."

The situation comes at a rough time for the Cowboy program. Not only has OSU been down their best defensive post player in Michael Cobbins since the start of the conference season due to an Achilles injury, just last week freshman point guard Stevie Clark was dismissed from the team for his second arrest in less than two months.

"We have opportunities for players to step up, opportunities for our team to grow right now," Ford said. "Obviously, Marcus has been a major identity of our basketball team, no question about it. This is going to give an opportunity for some of them who haven’t been playing quite as much to pick up the slack while he is out.

"In any situation, we try to look for the positives and this will be great for him to sit back, watch, evaluate our team, spend a lot of time with our team and get them prepared to play.

“When it’s his time, I’m expecting him to come back better than ever. I’m expecting him to come back and help this basketball team in every way that he possibly he can."

Ford said during the OSU press conference that Texas Tech did not contact him in the process of their investigation. Oklahoma State athletics director Mike Holder said Tech athletics director Kirby Hocutt reached out to him Sunday, but Holder did not say if Texas Tech included OSU in their investigation.

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Additional reporting by Jason Elmquist, sports editor of the Stillwater News Press, distributed by CNHI News Service.