USA Basketball still loves Smart

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Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart is one of only two rookies on USA Basketball's select team that opens a four-day training with the national team on Monday in Las Vegas.

Smart has cemented his place in the USA Basketball pipeline in recent years, especially after helping the under-19 squad win gold at the World Championships in Prague last summer (where he averaged 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 2.2 assists in nine games). Smart also attended the national team's mini camp last July in Las Vegas.

While the Celtics are confident they secured an impact player with the No. 6 pick in June's draft, USA Basketball's recent confidence in Smart speaks volume about what the national team believes his potential is.

Here's an ESPN blog entry from last summer in advance of USA Basketball's mini camp:

USA Basketball Loves Marcus Smart

Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski always have their list of unimpeachable national team selections, players like LeBron James and Chris Paul. But they are always on the lookout for young talent, too. This is especially true in off-years, when there are no Olympics on the immediate horizon. The net ends up being a win both for USA Basketball and for basketball in the U.S. The number of young players that emerged from the 2010 FIBA World Championships as bona fide NBA stars is a perfect example. This confluence can work for everyone.

From July 22-25, Team USA is holding its annual minicamp in Las Vegas, which will include a handful of closed practices followed by an event-ending showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV. Still one year removed from the 2014 FIBAs, and three years away from the next Olympics, this summer is all about young talent -- collecting it in one place, drilling with Coach K and the rest of Team USA's staff, and starting to think about which group should make up the next young-ish batch of players at the FIBA World Championships.

Naturally, all of these players are in the NBA. There is just one exception: Marcus Smart. [Note: Creighton's Doug McDermott, who is the other rookie on this year's select team, was later added to the minicamp]

Yes, the Oklahoma State rising sophomore -- national freshman and Big 12 player of the year in 2012-13 -- is the only non-NBA player invited to take part in minicamp in Las Vegas this month. Even more impressive: Team USA didn't invite a single player from this year's draft. Everyone else on the list -- which you can see in full here -- has played at least one full season in the NBA, and oftentimes several.

Naturally, Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford is thrilled with this development.

"We're very excited for Marcus," Ford said in a release. "It's an incredible honor to be the lone college player to be selected. It's a great honor for him and our program. He continues to represent us in a first-class manner, both on and off the court."

And there were plenty of stories like this last summer. From CBS Sports: "Easy to understand why USA Basketball loves Marcus Smart" and from Sports Illustrated: "With USA Basketball, Marcus Smart gets a taste of the dream he deferred."

Much like with Kelly Olynyk getting international game reps with Canada's men's national program during its 11-game exhibition slate overseas, it can seemingly only help Boston's young talent to get national team exposure this early in their NBA careers. Yes, there's always the risk of injury, but the experience almost certainly outweighs that danger.

[Related reading: Marcus Smart is outhustling his demons]