Marcus Smart knows firsthand the impact cancer can have on a family.
He was just 9 when his 33-year-old brother, Todd, died after battling leukemia.
The Oklahoma State star sophomore guard will pay tribute to his brother when his Cowboys face Colorado as part of the MGM Grand Showcase on Dec. 21. Proceeds from the college basketball doubleheader, which also features New Mexico playing Marquette, will go to Coaches vs. Cancer.
“It’s a big-time game for us and for an important cause,” said Smart, who spent the first part of this week training with USA Basketball at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center. “When you lose someone to cancer the way I did with my brother, it stays with you forever. So if we can raise money to help fight (cancer), count me in.”
Tickets, priced from $30 to $250, go on sale at 10 a.m. today at Ticketmaster.com and at all Ticketmaster outlets. Both games will be televised nationally — New Mexico-Marquette on ESPNU and Colorado-Oklahoma State on ESPN2.
Smart surprised many people by electing to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season. But he intends to turn pro after this coming season and hopes to be invited back to USA Basketball’s Las Vegas training camp as it prepares for the FIBA Basketball World Cup to be played in Spain next summer.
“I’m grateful for getting the chance just to practice with the team,” he said. “It’s amazing how good these guys are.”
Colorado coach Tad Boyle kiddingly said he might have campaigned to play Marquette or New Mexico if he had known Smart was coming back. Instead, Boyle hopes the games will draw a big crowd to the MGM Grand Garden.
“Everybody has someone in their lives who has been impacted by cancer,” Boyle said. “And if we can come out on Dec. 21 and put on a good show for the fans and raise some money for Coaches vs. Cancer, that’s what it’s all about.”
The Dec. 21 event is an offshoot of the Coaches vs. Cancer golf tournament former UNLV basketball coach Lon Kruger started several years ago. Kruger, who is beginning his third year at Oklahoma, was at the MGM Grand on Wednesday and said he hopes to bring the Sooners to the event in the next couple of years.
“We would love to play in this,” Kruger said. “We’ve had great response to the golf tournament, and it would be great to see the community get behind this event.”
Since the nationwide program was founded in 1993, Coaches vs. Cancer has helped raise over $87 million for the American Cancer Society. First-year New Mexico coach Craig Neal said a Las Vegas version of the Coaches vs. Cancer game should help raise awareness of the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ cause.
“This is the perfect place to do this because people love coming to Vegas, and they’re going to see some great basketball,” Neal said. “The fact we’re raising money to help fight cancer makes it all the more reason to get behind this.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.