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What recent history says about Marcus Smart's decision to return

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Marcus Smart stunned the basketball world this week when he announced that he would be returning to Oklahoma State for another season. The majority opinion is that Smart is making a mistake, but does history back that position up?


In an age where underclassmen who are long shots to be drafted all still choose to leave school in hoards, it's no wonder that Marcus Smart's decision to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season has received such a widespread reaction.

Some people think Smart's decision to return is refreshing, more think it's foolish, but everyone writing or talking about the 2013 Freshman of the Year share one emotion: surprise. Smart was projected by most to be the second or third player selected in this year's draft. With Andrew Wiggins ("the best high school player since LeBron") and one of the most impressive incoming crop of freshmen in years entering the college ranks next fall, it would be an almost impossible task for Smart to improve his draft stock over the next 12 months. On the surface, the choice makes no sense, especially given the recent "one and done" wave.

There are few decisions over the course of the early entry era that come close to rivaling Smart's, but several are at least somewhat comparable. The results of those who chose to return to school for at least one more season? Well, it's a pretty mixed bag.

Trey Burke (2012)

The most recent example might be one of the most comparable. Though Burke wasn't likely to be taken in the top 10 of the 2012 draft, his decision to return to school for another season was still more surprising than any other underclassmen's last spring.

It's safe to say he made the right call.

The consensus national Player of the Year for 2012-13, Burke led Michigan to the national championship game and almost certainly played himself into the NBA Draft lottery along the way. He'll hear his name called early on June 27.

James Michael McAdoo (2012)

On the other end of the spectrum is McAdoo, who earlier this week announced that he would be returning to North Carolina for his junior season after a somewhat underwhelming (if only because of some overly-lofty expectations) sophomore campaign. McAdoo, who was a mildly-used reserve as a freshman on a star-studded 2011-12 Carolina team, still would have likely been a lottery pick last summer had he chosen to come out.

Terrence Jones (2011)

The one major outlier of the John Calipari era at Kentucky thus far, Jones went again the "one-and-done" trend despite the fact that the majority of experts had him projected as a top 10 pick. He had an up-and-down sophomore season with the Wildcats, but wound up winning a national championship and being selected by the Houston Rockets with the 18th pick that June. He's currently averaging 5.6 ppg in his rookie season.

Roy Hibbert (2007)

Following Georgetown's run to the Final Four in 2007, Hibbert was a projected lottery pick assumed by most to be selected in the 8-14 range. The big man shocked everyone that spring, however, by announcing that he would play his senior season for John Thompson III.

"I like school," said Hibbert at the time "I'm a government major and have a lot of fun classes. It's easy to go to school, and it would be different if I didn't like school. But it's real fun."

While some would label the move as a mistake - Georgetown was stunned in the second round of the '08 tournament by Davidson and Hibbert slipped to the No. 17 pick in that summer's draft - Hibbert was an All-Star in 2012 and is in the midst of his fourth productive NBA season. He signed a 4 year, $58 million dollar contract with the Pacers last July.

Chris Marcus (2001)

The ultimate precautionary tale.

Marcus was a surefire lottery pick after a breakout sophomore season in 2000-01, but made the shocking decision to return to Western Kentucky for his junior season. He suffered a serious ankle injury a few months later, rushed his rehabilitation, and was never healthy enough to play for the Hilltoppers again.

During his time on the sidelines, Marcus developed an alcohol problem, gained a serious amount of weight, and ruined whatever remaining chance he might have had at a professional basketball career. According to his Wikipedia page, he is currently living in Charlotte, "working various menial jobs."

Tim Duncan (1996)

The most famous decision to return to college might be the one that most parallels Smart's.

There's no question that Duncan would have been the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, but the Wake Forest big man instead opted to return to school for one more shot at a national championship. The Demon Deacons didn't even make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament the next March, but Duncan still wound up being a No. 1 draft pick. He's had a decent pro career over the succeeding 15 years.