When people think of the Oklahoma State Cowboys basketball, Marcus Smart is probably the name that comes to mind. As a projected lottery selection in the 2014 NBA Draft, this makes sense. However, anyone who knows the game understands it takes a hell of a lot more than one player to complete a team, especially one that won 21 games last season. Enter Markel Brown, Smart’s backcourt mate and a player who just might dunk on you if you don’t pay attention.
Two years ago, Markel Brown was a little-known reserve, who didn’t even think the NBA was a possibility. Now, he’s on the brink of making his dreams come true. Truth be told, Markel Brown might have had a better season than Smart. Regardless, Brown and Marcus Smart were the two pieces who made the Cowboys run.
Brown averaged 17.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, shooting 47 percent from the field and 38 percent from deep during his senior season. That’s forgetting to mention Brown might want to throw his name in the dunk contest when he leaps to the NBA with his 43.5 vertical from the NBA Draft Combine, though he told me his highest is around 45.5 inches. Sure, he might be considered a “sleeper” by some, but Markel Brown can ball.
[RELATED: The Top 10 Sleepers of the 2014 NBA Draft]
When Marcus Smart was suspended for three games, Brown took the reins of the Cowboys, averaging 23.3 PPG and excelling in pick-and-roll and transition opportunities. He proved he can play alongside a star and can also take over when the ball is in his hands.
Markel is a rare commodity in that he stayed all four years at OKSU, claiming that getting his degree was the main reason. That’s a breath of fresh air to hear when the current trend is for players to leave after one season to chase NBA checks.
Brown will be coming into the NBA with his degree while still cashing an NBA paycheck. He’s projected as a second-round selection, but Markel Brown is determined to become a name with the likes of other famous second-round picks rather than an afterthought. With the NBA Draft coming up in a few weeks, Markel Brown took time out of his busy schedule to sit down and chat with us about the Draft, his training, and his increased efficiency during his senior season.
*** *** ***
Dime: How is training for the draft going so far?
Markel Brown: It’s going pretty good right now. I’m based out here in Las Vegas at Impact, but I’ve been in and out for the last two weeks. I’ve worked out with six teams so far and I have seven more to go. The workouts have been good. I feel like I’ve been getting better in every workout that I’ve been in.
Dime: With less than two weeks until the NBA Draft, what does the term: Markel Brown, NBA Draft Prospect mean to you?
MB: It means a lot. Two years ago I couldn’t even see myself in this position. Especially being in this class, which is supposed to be one of the best since LeBron’s class, it just feels good to be apart of something with so many great players from all over the country. Hopefully having my name called on June 26th is so surreal.
Dime: Do you have an advantage staying 4 years over younger guys who leave after 1?
MB: I think it gives me an advantage, because it shows how I’ve matured over the years. I’ve been through so much in my four years of college. I’ve been through ups and downs, I’ve been on the good teams and the bad teams. It gives me more of an advantage because I’m more mature and I know what to expect.
Dime: Did you ever consider leaving OKSU? What made you stay four years?
MB: Actually, I thought about leaving after my junior year. But, I just felt like with only having one year left, I was so close to getting my college degree. Also, staying another year gave me an opportunity to improve my game even more. I could have left after my junior year, but I like the decision I made to stay for my senior year.
Dime: So getting your degree factored into your decision to stay four years?
MB: Yes sir.
Click to see how Markel improved his efficiency from the field and more…
Dime: Your field goals from the field and deep were identical from your junior to senior seasons, however, you scored two more points per game with increased efficiency from every shooting category. What do you attribute to the increase?
MB: Confidence for the most part. Just continuing to get in the gym and working on my shot. Repetition and confidence. Being the team leader also. All of those things had a place in me taking that step my senior year.
Dime: When Marcus Smart was suspended for three games you scored about five more points per game, had a lot more P-n-R possessions, transition opportunities, and it looked like you were able to freelance on the court more. Did you feel like you had to step up to the plate with Smart being out?
MB: I definitely feel like I had to step up. Marcus was a big key to our team and I had to step up for my team during his absence. I think the team overall did a great job when Marcus was gone. Personally, I think I did a great job running the point guard and running the team. I feel like everything was in place, like you said, I got more looks and pick and roll possessions. I was able to have a little more freedom with Marcus out, getting a few more shots knowing I was the leader on the team.
Dime: Marcus Smart’s reputation took a hit this season, what have you experienced about Smart on and off the court from he two years you’ve played with him?
MB: Marcus is a great person. He’s a guy that I can always count on. He’s always working hard and trying to make himself better. I wouldn’t want any other teammate on my team, he’s a great guy to be around. Competing with him everyday was probably a big help for me, because I felt like every day we made each other better.
Dime: Have you thought about the possibility of being on the same team again with Smart?
MB: I haven’t put that much thought into it. It seems possible, but I wouldn’t mind at all. He’s a great guy and great teammate. He’s going to be a heck of a player at the next level.
Dime: Did playing next to Marcus Smart, who was the “star” of Oklahoma State, help you as a player since you were able to still have an impact on the team? The ability to be able to play next to a star and still knowing how to impact the game.
MB: Yeah, it helped me out a lot. Going to the next level, it helps me out, because there’s going to be a star on the team at the next level. I’m going to basically have to play the same role. Becoming a great role player and going out and doing anything to help my team.
Dime: What does the term sleeper mean to you? Is it positive or negative term?
MB: I don’t look at it that much, I just want to be drafted, I just wanna hear my name called on June 26th. Whether they’re sleeping on me or not, I just wanna work hard and continue to get better.
Dime: We see a lot of people crumble from expectations in the NBA. Do you feel like being a considered a sleeper will help your case?
MB: I think it will help my case a lot whenever I’m able to show up in big time moments. I think it’s going to open a lot of guys eyes sooner than later.
Dime: The majority of second-round picks appear to become afterthoughts, but there are guys like Manu Ginobili, Monta Ellis, Rashard Lewis, Gilbert Areanas, etc, that have carved really amazing careers for their draft position. What do you have to do to become one of those names that’s remembered?
MB: Basically just continue to work hard and get better. Go in and listen to the coaches and the vets. I feel like doing what you are told to do and being that effective role player will give you a start to build your career sooner or later. Most times in the second-round you’re on a bad team, so hopefully it gives me a chance to fight for some minutes on a non-playoff team and build from there.
Click to hear how Markel thinks he’ll impact an NBA team as a second-round pick…
Dime: Obviously, second-round picks don’t have guaranteed contracts, how will that fuel you to not become complacent compared to someone who comes into camp with a guaranteed contract?
MB: Definitely. That second-round isn’t guaranteed, like you said, I just have to go out there and give it my all. Going out there and playing for that contract is going to fuel me.
Dime: Have you thought about how it’s going to feel when you get that call on draft night and your name is announced?
MB: I can’t say right now, I’m just waiting for the day. Hopefully there is a call, I don’t know how the feeling is going to be yet.
Dime: Where will you be on draft night? More importantly, who will you be with?
MB: I’m probably going to be with my family. I don’t know where yet.
Dime: What’s the main thing you’ve been working on with your game?
MB: I’ve just been working on being consistent, working on ball handling, playing more of the point guard. I figured being a combo guard at the next level would give me more of an option to get on the court.
Dime: From watching a lot of film on you, I noticed you take a lot of tough shots, but you also have a knack for making most of those tough shots. Do you feel as if you will be able to come into the NBA and make those same tough shots?
MB: Yes sir. I feel like I’ll be able to make more of those shots now that I’m focusing on just basketball with not having school around. I have more time to work on my game and become more consistent as a shooter. I’ll be able to step right in and make those plays.
Dime: First time you dunked?
MB: The first time I dunked was the end of my 8th grade year going into my 9th grade year, going into that summer.
Dime: You had a 43.5-inch vertical at the combine, was that the highest you’ve ever jumped?
MB: The highest I ever reached was 45.5.
Dime: For all the people who will never dunk in their lives, can you run me through what it feels like when you destroy someone with a dunk?
MB: It feels good, but at the same time, I’m so used to it that it’s hard to explain. It feels good to just go up and stuff it. In my mind, I don’t really know how high I’m getting. But players will see me and tell me how high I was and it doesn’t even feel like I get that high. It’s hard to explain, but it feels good.
Dime: You were ejected on one of your dunks this season after receiving your second technical, what exactly did you get ejected for?
MB: The ref said I was staring at him and he called it “taunting.” I didn’t say a word to the other player or anything, I maybe looked at him for two seconds. The ref didn’t even give me a chance to go down court, it all happened so fast. I didn’t think it was the right call.
Dime: After improving your three-point shooting from 26 percent to 38 percent from your freshman to senior seasons. Obviously you are a more confident shooter, but do you think that is a part of your game that will translate to the NBA?
MB: I definitely think that’s a part of my game that will translate. I’m known as a shooter now, so playing the point guard and shooting guard positions I’ll have to be able to shoot it well at the next level. I definitely think I’ll be able to do so.
Dime: There are 60 selections in the NBA Draft, explain to me why you should be one of them?
MB: I think I should be one of the selections in the NBA Draft, because even though I’m a senior, I have a lot of potential in me. I’m a veteran to most of the guys in this draft, so I should be selected because I can bring a lot to the table. I can bring defense and offense, there aren’t many two way guards in the NBA. Playing both ways and playing the combo position, I can bring a lot of athleticism to a team, along with defense and scoring.
How will Markel Brown do as a pro?
Follow Drew on Twitter at @Dcorrigan50.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.