Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said, "Marcus Smart is as good a player as there is in the country. He does so many things that impact winning."
Smart's coach knows that better than anyone.
Yet Ford did his best while Smart was juggling options in his mind to stay as neutral as possible. Ford did the same with Brown and Nash while knowing how much better his team would be if they returned.
"We basically gave them as much advice and counseling as possible," Ford said. "We basically let them make their decision either way."
In Smart's case, the coach advised him to do some additional thinking even after Smart told him he had made a decision.
"Marcus said to me, 'Coach, I think I know what I want to do,'" Ford said. "I didn't even ask him what it was. I told him to talk to his mom and dad and to let me know. When he said, 'Coach, I want to stay,' he was excited about it. I could see that he was excited.
"I told him to sleep on it, and I called him back the next morning and asked him if he was sure. He said 'yes.' Then I asked him to come see me later in the day, and I asked him again. That's when I knew he was sure."
Smart got a chance later in the summer to get some reinforcement for his decision. He and McDermott were the only two collegiate players invited the U.S. national team's minicamp in Las Vegas in late July.
Both players held their own in practice games against some of the NBA's best young talent. Both players left a lot of money on the table, but the Vegas experience showed them it will be there in a year when they're ready to come out on their own terms.
"I am a good player, and my confidence and self-esteem are high because I'm competing with these guys, so I know I can compete with anybody in the country," Smart said.