By Patrick B. McGuigan
Throughout the evening at last week’s Devon Energy College Basketball Awards, fans gently lobbied Marcus Smart, the star player for the Oklahoma State University Cowboys, to stick around for a second season at the school in Stillwater.
At the end of the evening, it was Michigan State University head men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo – winner of the Wayman Tisdale Humanitarian Award – who drove the point home. Izzo pointed to Trey Burke, star player at the rival University of Michigan, and said bluntly that an extra year of college eligibility had made Burke a greater player.
Burke received the Oscar Robertson Award as the nation’s best male college player.
Smart, the Tisdale Freshman Player of the Year in men’s NCAA ball, hinted he was hearing the message. Just a couple of days after last week’s event at the National Cowboy Museum, he thrilled a packed house at the Student Union in Stillwater, saying he would return for another season. He led the Pokes to their best season in more than a decade, and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Also during the gala evening, Jim Larranaga of the University Miami received the Henry Iba Coach of the Year award, regaling the crowd with stories of his beloved high school coach who, half a century ago, set an example of service and excellence for him.
Both of the players, Burke and Smart, spoke eloquently but briefly, thanking their coaches and the huge contingent of fans from their schools who traveled to Oklahoma City for the awards program.
It was the two coaches, and the legendary Robertson, who lingered over their remarks – and the crowd loved it. Robertson was praised as the greatest high school basketball player of all time, and one of the legendary greats of the college and professional game, as well.
A professional all-star team member an incredible 12 times, Robertson was deemed the College Player of the Twentieth Century by the Associated Press. He delivered a stirring speech praising the two young men before their honors were received.
Coach Izzo was both earthy and eloquent, detailing the reasons he loves college basketball, his admiration for many of the other coaches and reporters in attendance, and the intensity of his belief in “giving back” through acts of charity. He had the audience laughing at his reference to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as the home of “eleven months of winter, and one month of bad sledding.”
Other speakers included Scott Hill, director of Access Sports, who described the charitable programs of his group, and his relationship with the Knights of Columbus, who host many of the tournaments and other activities for Access Sports held at the Santa Fe Family Life Center.
Fran Fraschilla returned as master of ceremonies for the awards, now based in Oklahoma City. Kicking off the evening were R. Allan Marcus on behalf of the sponsoring Devon Energy; and David Gillikin of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, who selected the winners honored at the annual event. Chuck Bowman, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, delivered the invocation.
In addition to Devon’s role as name sponsor for the basketball awards, Integris, Aflac and Shields Pipe Corporation were leading advocates for the program.
Other major supporters included Sandridge, Lamar, OGE, Quik Print, J.P. Morgan, Covenant Global Investors, First National Bank, Hudiburg Auto Group, Ken Davidson, Oklahoma Tank Lines, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, the OSU Foundation, the OU Foundation, the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, and the the Oklahoma Council, Knights of Columbus.
Smart Play: OSU’s all-star Freshman of the Year honored along with Burke, Larranaga, Izzo
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