Big 3 doing more than just basketball

(Photos by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — In its three years in existence, the Big 3 Basketball Tournament has become a big deal. The traveling 3-on-3 basketball league has become a hit almost everywhere it goes.

It stopped in Oklahoma City Sunday with six of the league’s 12 teams playing three games at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Big 3, which was founded by entertainment mogul Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz, has now come to Oklahoma twice in three seasons.

But while much of attention went towards the rosters filled with former NBA players and the fans who came out to support the event, their biggest move may have taken place Saturday.

With no fan fair and only one member of the media on hand, the Big 3 in conjunction with the Ricky Davis Legacy Foundation spent several hours at the City Rescue Mission for the Dribble Out Hunger initiative, which provides food and personal essentials to displaced, disadvantaged and destitute communities and families.

“This is the third year we are now doing stuff in every city,” said former NBA player Rickey Davis. “We are doing the Dribble out Hunger campaign. We do the Legacy labs and health fairs for the kids. Just anywhere we can be in the community lifting a helping hand.  Just giving back.”

Davis spent 12 seasons in the NBA before playing his final game in 2010. He is now a co-captain on the Big 3s Ghost Ballers.

Despite a long career that saw him play on six different NBA teams, Davis wasn’t ready to stop playing basketball. So he jumped at the chance to join the Big 3 when the league began operations in 2017.

Davis also wasn’t ready to stop giving back to his community and those that are less fortunate just because he was no longer in the NBA.

“The Ricky Davis Legacy Foundation started my first year in the NBA,” Davis said. “Just giving a donation to various programs, kids, people in need, communities. And every year it’s just been getting better and better. Adding different programs, different initiatives for kids, homeless people. So now we have just hooked up with different community places like the rescue mission. Just going in and giving a helping hand any way we can.”

The City Rescue Mission (800 W. California Ave.) is the largest homeless shelter in Oklahoma City. The privately-funded organization houses 350 men, women and children and is faith-based.

Davis contacted the mission five days before The Big 3 came to Oklahoma and asked if he could do something for the residents. That help turned into the Ricky Davis Legacy Foundation donating food (from Brother’s Produce), toiletries, clothes, shoes and other items and hand-delivered them to the residents.

Davis personally helped the children pick out new shoes, which many of them have not had for quite some time.

The foundation also provided a barber and hairstylist for the residents.

“You know, you look good, you feel good,” Davis said. “That’s what it’s all about. Some people think it’s all about the money. But if you can help them get a haircut so they can look good to help them get a job. Just little things that some people miss that we try to help with.”

Joining Davis at the shelter were NBA legends Rick Barry and Clifford Ray, along with former players Jamario Moon and Donte Green. The four of them served food to the residents and then took photos and signed autographs with the excited residents.

“This is kind of home,” Ray said. “So any time I can help. I have always been an advocate of (Davis). He does good things.  It’s my pleasure to be here.”

Ray, 70, played his college basketball at the University of Oklahoma (1969-71) before being drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1971. He then went on to play 10 years in the NBA with the Bulls and Golden State Warriors. That included winning a championship with the Warriors in 1975.

Ray, who has also been an assistant coach and consultant in the NBA, said giving back to the community should be something all former players should strive to do after their playing days end.

“I just think that if you can do something all over the country and you have the means to get around and do so, it’s a positive thing,” Ray said. “And it can’t do anything but help. It might be able to encourage some of the other players to do things. Because sometimes if you look around, there are a lot of things we can do if we are just asked. A lot of times people don’t ask us. When you get older, they don’t ask you, but this is a good thing.”

For Davis, giving back is not really a choice.

“God has blessed me,” Davis said. “So just being a blessing to others is important to me and my family. It’s what we stand for. Being able to bring my kids and show that everyone is not privileged. We are blessed.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Now what?

By Michael Kinney

In a span of 11 years the Oklahoma City Thunder rose from the depths of one of the worst season’s in NBA to become a title contender and one of the most exciting franchises in the league.

At their pinnacle in 2012, the Thunder made it to the NBA championship on the backs of four young superstars. And even though they lost to the Miami Heat in five games, it looked like Oklahoma City was destined to be the next dynasty and collect a bunch of rings.

But then a quirky thing took place on the way to that glorious future. Life happened.

Egos, money, questionable decisions, injuries and bad luck all seemed to hit the Thunder at different points and the talk of the small-market wonder team disappeared as frustration and angst took its place.

That era officially came to an end when Oklahoma City traded guard Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets. Westbrook was the last remaining cog of the four stars that had carried the franchise to the precipice of the promise land.

Along with Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant are all now with large market teams in big cities looking to compete for NBA titles. Durant and Ibaka have already tasted what being a champion taste like while Harden and Westbrook are hoping their reunion in Houston will lead to their first title.

But unfortunately for Thunder fans, none of that ultimate success will take place in Oklahoma City.

What is hard for many Oklahoma City fans to get over is that of the four players, the Thunder ended up trading three of them away. Durant is the only one who left via free agency.

Throw in players such as Paul George, Victor Oladipo and Enes Kanter, and Oklahoma City has traded away some impressive talent in its 11-year history.

It has left fans asking what happened? How did this budding dynasty get off course?

The answer for many is the exact fears the NBA had when first making the decision to allow the franchise to leave Seattle and move to Oklahoma City. It’s the small market vs big market battle.

One look at the major player moves this offseason show a distinct tendency of smaller marker teams losing their stars to big markets. Whether it’s by free agency or demanding trades, marquee players are heading to the bright lights of a large metropolis.

According to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, this type of player movement is only going to continue.

“Some feel that the player movement we have seen, particularly players asking to be traded or leaving teams that have the ability to pay them more money is a problem,” Cuban wrote in his blog. “I don’t. I think it is exactly what we should expect and it reflects what is happening in the job market across industries in our country.”

Through the past decade, Oklahoma City hasn’t felt the full effect of this trend. When they lost players such as Harden, Ibaka and Durant, Presti found ways to wheel and deal and bring in Oladipo and George. And they also had Westbrook to fall back on.

But this offseason, George’s unexpected and painfully bad timing trade demand threw the entire process in flux. The Thunder shouldn’t have given into the bully tactic, but once they did and Westbrook made it known he wanted out, the Thunder had no way to replace them with equal talent.

So now, Oklahoma City has compiled eight first round picks and four pick swaps from their destruction of the team. That gives them the potential of 15 first round picks from 2020 to 2026.

Oklahoma City can use those picks to make trade and bring in big name stars, but they will end up in exactly the same position as they were with George. Someone who really didn’t want to be in Oklahoma City and used the franchise to get his max contract before forcing his way out.

That is Oklahoma City’s future if they continue down that same path.

In order for the Thunder to get back to being title contenders, they may have to take a page from their past. Starting with Durant, the Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder had a three year stretch of almost unprecedented drafts. While Durant was obvious, Westbrook, Ibaka and Harden were reaches in many analyst estimations.

Since then, Oklahoma City’s draft resume has been suspect at best. Since 2010, the only players they have drafted who spent significant time in the Thunder starting lineup have been Reggie Jackson (2011), Steven Adams (2013), Andre Roberson (2013) and Terrance Ferguson (2017). The rest have been dealt away or languished on the roster of the Oklahoma City Blue (D-, G-League).

It may seem impossible that the Thunder will ever be able to collect a young, hungry crew like Durant, Ibaka, Westbrook and Harden again. But that has to be their goal with all of the draft assets they have accumulated.

The only hope of small market teams like the Thunder are to draft great and get as much out of their homegrown talent for as long as they can hold onto them.

But history has told them that at some point, the players will want to leave and the Thunder and its fan base need to be prepared for it.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Westbrook called ‘the most important player’ in Thunder history after trade

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

It took a while, but all the paperwork is finally in. After 11 years with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook has officially been traded to the Houston Rockets, Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti announced Tuesday night.

“Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state,” Presti said in a statement. “None of us could have anticipated the player he has become, and we are all deeply proud of what he has contributed to the success of the franchise and to our community. Russell and his wife Nina, their three children, his brother and his parents will always remain part of the Thunder family. We wish them nothing but happiness and success in the future.”

In his 11 seasons in the NBA, Westbrook Westbrook appeared in 821 games and averaged 23.0 points, 8.4 assists, 7.0 rebounds and 1.76 steals. He earned 2016-17 NBA MVP after becoming the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double over a season.

Before the trade become official, Westbrook posted his thoughts concerning his time in Oklahoma City on one of his social media accounts.

“I can’t even begin to put into words all of the emotions I have right now. It’s been one heck of a journey Oklahoma! When I came here, I was 18 years old, bright eyed, and completely unaware of all the amazing things that would soon take place,” Westbrook posted. “I grew up in Oklahoma with an amazing bunch of people. The people here are what makes this place so special… I’m leaving Oklahoma with so many friends and so much gratitude. I could never thank you all enough for sticking with me. It’s been a dream and a whirlwind. #WHYNOT.”

However, Presti also hinted in his statement, that the momentum behind trading their corner stone point guard was not one-sided.

“We recently had conversations with Russell about the team, his career, and how he sees the future. Through those conversations we came to the understanding that looking at some alternative situations would be something that made sense for him,” Presti said. “As a result, and due to his history with the Thunder, we worked together to accommodate this. Our ability to have these types of conversations and work so closely with Russell and his agent Thad Foucher is only possible because of the depth of the relationship that has been built over the last 11 years.”

Thunder chairman Clayton Bennett also acknowledge what Westbrook has meant to the franchise in the 11 year it has been in Oklahoma City.

“I have a great deal of respect for Russell and there is no way to adequately describe our appreciation for what he has meant to Oklahomans,” Bennett said. “His legacy here is immense, and he will be honored by the team for all he has done. We wish he and Nina and their family all the best. While this era of Thunder basketball now comes to an end, I’m confident our talented team of people will once again position the Thunder for success in the future.”

Now that Westbrook is officially off the Thunder roster, the franchise has started too look ahead. And as of right now, that future will include guard Chris Paul, who was part of the trade for Westbrook, along with two first round picks.

It had been assumed by NBA analyst and media members that the Thunder would try and trade the 34-year old Paul. But with $123 million owed to him over the next three seasons, there may have not been many teams willing to take on that type of contract.

However, Paul’s resume does speak for itself. In 14 seasons with the New Orleans and Oklahoma City Hornets, the LA Clippers and the Rockets, Paul has appeared in 950 games  and averaged 18.5 points, 9.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.23 steals in 35.1 minutes.

A nine-time All-Star, Paul has been named to the All-NBA team on eight occasions, led the league in steals six times and assists four times. He has also been named to nine NBA All-Defensive Teams. Paul is the only player in NBA history to average at least 18.0 points, 9.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals.

Paul has yet to speak publicly about the trade.

“Getting a player of Chris’ caliber gives us another experienced playmaker and leader, while the additional draft picks continue to allow us to further commit to the long-term vision that we are embarking on for the Thunder,” Presti said. “We welcome Chris back to Oklahoma City where as a member of the Hornets he helped to pave the way for the Thunder’s arrival in OKC.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

New QB, new defense, same expectations

Photo by Michael Kinney

By Michael Kinney

DALLAS — Heading into the 2018 college football season, there was one burning question on every Oklahoma fan’s mind. Who was going to be the starting quarterback?

Throughout the Spring and Summer, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley kept telling the media that the battle between Kyler Murray and Austin Kendall was a tight one and either could be the man under center when the season began.

Murray wasn’t named the starter until right before the season kicked-off. He then went on to not only lead OU to the College Football Playoffs, but also take home the Heisman trophy and set numerous offensive record before being drafted No. 1 overall in the NFL draft.

Now fast-forward a year. With most fans and college football analyst believing that Alabama graduate transfer Jalen Hurts is going to be the team’s No. 1 quarterback for the 2019 season, Riley finds himself once again trying to sell the idea that he has an intense QB battle on his hands.

During Monday’s annual Big 12 Media Days at AT&T Stadium, Riley tried to push this mindset that Hurts, Tanner Mordecai and true freshman Spencer Rattler are in an intense competition for the job.

“One of them’s got to go win it,” Riley said. “We’ve got an interesting dynamic in there with Jalen as an older, more experienced guy that’s been through a lot of battles, and we’ve got some very young, talented players in there with a chance to make a name for themselves. It’s really, truly, ‘May the best man win.'”

Even the players have gotten in on the sell job. Preseason All-Big 12 wideout CeeDee Lamb insists the three quarterbacks are on equal footing, which is something he said last season.

“Those guys (Mordecai and Rattler) are so overlooked and they don’t get credit for what they’ve done up to this point,” Lamb said. “Obviously, Spencer just got here. He’s maybe two months in but the guy is a competitor. His accuracy is out of this world. Tanner, he can really spin it from any distance. With Jalen transferring in, I feel like everybody else just got overshadowed. And that is no disrespect to him or any of them. The other two guys in that room are playing with a chip on their shoulder and they’re not just going to let that opportunity go out the window because a grad transfer came in.”

However, for many, it would seem impossible to believe that Hurts, who has 28 starts under his belt and led the Tide to a National Championship as a freshman, is not at the very least the favorite heading into camp.

But as Riley pointed out, Hurts is in a different situation than his previous pair of Heisman winning quarterbacks.

“He brings game experience that Baker (Mayfield) and Kyler did not have when they got here, but also doesn’t have as much experience in the system. It has been quicker but it’s been fun,” Riley said. “He’s been eager. There have been things that we do that he’s been able to trace back kind of the roots to different things that he’s done at Alabama or even in high school. So it’s not like you’re starting from scratch. It’s a fun process. He’s a smart kid. He’s eager and works very hard at it, and we have meshed together well.”

While most of the eyes will be on the quarterback battle, it is the other side of the ball that could determine how successful Oklahoma will be in 2019. Under new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, the Sooners are looking begin a new era of defensive ball at OU.

According to the Sooners Neville Gallimore, that defense will be led by Kenneth Murray.

“He’s a dog. He’s a playmaker,” Gallimore said of Murray. “Obviously he stands out from the moment he steps on the field. His heart, his hunger and his passion for this team and to play football stands out. As a guy I played alongside the last couple of years, whether on the practice field or a game, he wants to sell out and be at his best no matter what. It’s good to have a guy like that in your corner, because I know the expectations I have for him are high, and I know it’s the same for me.”

Even with a new quarterback and an unproven defense, the Sooners have been picked to win the Big 12 Conference title again.

“I think the expectations and standard of Oklahoma football are so high that it almost helps a little bit in a funny way,” Riley said. “It almost helps you refocus in that, yeah, the last four were great, but what about the fifth one? That’s the mindset around the program. I think we’ve got a good culture. I think our guys understand and have a healthy respect for how difficult each and every championship has been, each and every win has been. We have had to play our tails off and coach our tails off to get it done, and that’s how it should be in the Big 12. And to make another run will be just as difficult — if not more difficult — and it will take everything we have.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Westbrook era in OKC comes to an end

(Photo by TorreyPurvey.com)

By Michael Kinney

Since 2008 Russell Westbrook has been the face of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Whether it was in conjunction with Kevin Durant or by himself, the former No. 4 overall pick has been synonymous with the franchise. Westbrook’s first year in the NBA was the first season for the team in Oklahoma City.

That partnership came to an end late Thursday night when the Thunder traded Westbrook to the Houston Rockets. The trade reunites Westbrook with former Oklahoma City teammate James Harden.

In return, the Thunder received point guard Chris Paul, first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025, according to reports.

“We’re excited to have Russell Westbrook,” Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta told Houston’s Fox 26. “I would watch him play for Oklahoma City, and he’s so athletic. At the same time, this franchise just had the two years with the most wins it’s ever had in consecutive years, and we wouldn’t have accomplished that without Chris Paul. Chris Paul is unbelievable, and he’s gonna be sadly missed.”

Westbrook’s trade came after a furious week that started with Thunder vice-president and General Manager Sam Presti trading away Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers. He then sent starting forward Jerami Grant to the Denver Nuggets.

Along with players such as Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the three trades have netted the Thunder eight first-round draft picks over the next seven seasons. That includes two in 2024 and 2026.

Overall, from 2020 to 2026 Oklahoma City could have a total of 15 first-round picks and the swap rights in four different seasons. It is an incredible haul for Presti and his front office to work with as they rebuild the franchise from the ground up.

However, Oklahoma City had to give up a lot to get those assets. In his time with the Thunder, Westbrook grew into one of the elite players in the game. He is a former NBA MVP, the first player to average a triple-double (three times) and has numerous All-NBA and All-Star selections.

Westbrook leaves Oklahoma City the franchise’s all-time leader in points (18,859), assists (6,897), rebounds (5,760) and steals (1,442).

However, Westbrook’s stay in Oklahoma City hasn’t been without its bumps in the road. The often moody and temperamental has a reputation for being difficult to play with and coach and has had run-ins with the media.

But none of that seemed to matter to Houston. Being able to get the 30-year old Westbrook, who is still in his prime, was a major play to stay in contention as other teams in the Western conference have only grown stronger since the end of the season a month ago. In search of an NBA title, his four-year, $171 million contract is worth the gamble to take on.

“I said at the end of the year, ‘We’re never gonna stand pat,'” Fertitta said. “We’re always gonna try to get better. I think this makes us a better team. I hate to lose Chris Paul, but we felt like we did what we had to do to become a better team. I think it’ll be very interesting and fun. James and Russell wanted to play together. It ought to be fun this year.”

That is not necessarily the case for Oklahoma City. No one from the team has spoken publicly about any of the moves made this offseason. So there is no clear plan on how they plan to use the 34-year old Paul, who comes to Oklahoma City for the second time. He spent his rookie year in Oklahoma City as a member of the New Orleans Hornets when the team was displaced due to Hurricane Katrina.

Paul is owed $123 million over the next three seasons. So a buyout doesn’t seem likely.

The Thunder still have the option to trade Paul to a contending team or keep him in Oklahoma City to lead a large contingent of young players.

Oklahoma City may still be at work this offseason. With Steven Adams and Dennis Schroder being used as possible trade bait for even more draft picks, the Thunder will have no resemblance to the squad that was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons. And that may be a good thing.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with Michael Kinney Media

 

Blockbuster trade shakes up OKC & NBA

(Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

It was just a year ago that Oklahoma City was on top of the world. On July 7 of 2018, Paul George had signed his 4-year, $137 million deal to stay with the Thunder. In doing so, he easily became the biggest free agent to ever sign with the franchise.

Right after George signed, the Mayor of Oklahoma City, David Holt, officially proclaimed it Paul George Day.

The team, the player and its fan base all seemed to be on once accord and were happy.

Fast-forward exactly one year and that partnership has broken up with George being traded in the middle of the night on July 6.

According to reports, the Thunder traded George, an MVP candidate and All-NBA first team selection, to the Los Angeles Clippers for the largest haul in recent memory. It includes three unprotected first-round picks from the Clippers (2022, 2024 and 2026), and two firsts round picks from Miami (2021 unprotected and 2023 protected) and the right to swap picks with the Los Angeles in 2023 and 2025.

Oklahoma City also came away with veteran small forward Danilo Gallinari and point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Thunder are receiving a staggering number of draft picks and at least one starter.

None of that is consolation to the Oklahoma City fans who woke up Saturday morning to a new reality in terms of where their team now sits in the pecking order of the NBA.

While the comparisons to Kevin Durant leaving in 2016 will be plentiful, George’s departure is even more complicated and bleak.

George had three years left on his four-year deal with Oklahoma City. In his two seasons with the Thunder, they had been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Despite that, during his exit interview, George seemed ready to move forward and work out the issues that plagued the team.

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around that, on what’s the next step, the next phase for this group going forward,” George said in April. “So you know, that’s something I think we’re all trying to work on internally, figure out like what can we do, because this is a team that can go far. We have pieces in place to have a long postseason reason. I am trying to figure out like what itis for this group.”

But sometime within the last week, according to reports, George told Thunder General Manager Sam Presti that he wanted to be traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Presti and the Thunder then did the unthinkable and gave him what he wanted. Not only did they trade him, but also sent him to the exact team he wanted.

Neither George nor anyone from the Thunder have announced what put them on the road to a breakup. But the mastermind behind the move was NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who had been encouraging George to seek a trade so they could both go back home to L.A.

According to reports, Presti tried to trade both George and Russell Westbrook to the Toronto Raptors, but they didn’t have enough draft picks to satisfy the Thunder.

If that is true, what does that mean for the future of Westbrook in Oklahoma City?

Many are saying the Thunder made the best of a bad situation by not forcing the team to go through a season with a disgruntled player. And with the stockpile of draft picks, they are going to be able to use them on young talent for the next six to seven years or leverage them in trades to bring veteran players to Oklahoma City.

However, even if the Thunder are able to complete its own blockbuster trade that would bring an All-NBA player to Oklahoma City, they have set a bad precedent. Players now know they can bully to team’s front office into trading them with a simple demand or request.

While George hasn’t said anything publicly about the trade, he did take to social media and sort of defended Westbrook when NBA started to blame him. After ESPN’s Jalen Rose posted “I am not accepting any Westbrook slander!!!!” and George added “At All.”

“Honestly, man, (Westbrook) is one of the best human beings I’ve ever been a part of,” George said at his exit interviews. “I had a choice and a decision to go anywhere I wanted to in my career, and I chose to come back here. I mean, come on, that says a lot on its own, what kind of person Russ is.”

Yet, as fans have learned over the past four years, taking a player at their word is not as easy as it used to be.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content P rovider with Michael Kinney Media

Draft night takes a unique turn for OKC

Photo by Michael Kinney

 

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — Heading into the 2019 NBA draft, no one seemed to know what the Oklahoma City Thunder were planning to do. With the No. 21 pick in the first round, there were reports they wanted to trade it, along with veterans such as Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder and Andre Roberson.

However, the one thing that looked unlikely was that the Thunder would actually draft a player.

But that is exactly what the organization did, sort of. After a draft-day trade with the Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City (via Utah Jazz) selected Darius Bazley with the No. 23 pick.

All trades will not be finalized by the NBA until later this summer. Until then, Bazley is technically still a member of the Jazz.

Because of that, Thunder Vice-president and General Manager Sam Presti could not speak directly about Bazley. He could only speak in generalities to what the team was looking for in the draft.

“I think the way we’ve always approached the draft is we’re always looking to create value for the organization and get the most value from the opportunities we have to pick,” Presti said. “I think we’ve also shown, like, at different points in time to try to take along view, give yourself the most opportunity for the most success. But every one of these is different. We try to just go off the board, take the next player that’s there.”

Oklahoma City traded down to No. 23 after originally owning the No. 21 pick. Along with it, they picked up a second-round pick in 2024. They had no other draft picks on the night.

Bazley was an all-American guard at Princeton High in Sharonville, Ohio before deciding not to go to college and head straight to the G-League. Yet, he changed his mind again and didn’t play at all in the 2018-19 season and just trained to get ready for the 2019 draft.

“He had a unique path to this draft,” said ESPN analyst Jay Bilas. “He was a top 10 recruit; he was going to Syracuse. He is 6-9, but he is rail thin. He is very fluid. He has very good handles, he can attack the rim. Good athleticism, good vision and he runs in transition. So he’s got some potential.”

During Bazley’s year away from basketball, he worked as an intern at New Balance, where he made $1 million. Bazley also is one of only two NBA players who have a show deal with the shoe company. The other is NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.

At 6-foot-9, 200 pounds, the 19-year old Bazley has the size to play the small or power forward spot.

However, there is no telling where Bazley will wind up once he gets to the NBA. The Thunder are loaded on the frontcourt with Paul George, Jerami Grant, Terrance Ferguson, Abdel Nader, Patrick Patterson and Deonte Burton.

However, other than George and Grant, the forward spot was a weak spot for Oklahoma City last season. Despite that, it’s hard to imagine after sitting out an entire year, Bazley can come in and earn minutes his first year.

Social media was filled with angry Thunder fans who were not in favor of the pick knowing the team was in dire need of 3-point shooting. But Oklahoma City was in a difficult situation. They were picking so far down in the draft, it would almost be impossible to find an impact player. So, they once again had to take a long-term project much like Ferguson.

However, for some, the story of the Thunder draft was told by the names of the players still on the board. They included Carsen Edwards, Jordan Poole, Dylan Windler and Nassir Little. All of whom have 3-point range.

Because Bazley didn’t play last year, there are very few accurate scouting reports on him, except on what he did at combines at individual workouts.

However, coming out of high school, Bazley was heavily recruited. He averaged 15.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game.

“Very versatile,” according to Matt Reynolds of Prep Hoops. “Made plays slashing to the basket with great athleticism. Long and Lanky. Shot it okay. He may be a great pick down the road but will be a project for the future.”

Michael Kinney Media services

Mayfield takes shot at Texas while hosting youth camp

Photo by Michael Kinney: Barry Switzer, Baker Mayfield and Bills Sims share a laugh while posing for photos at the 3rd Annual Baker Mayfield Football ProCamp in Norman.

 

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN- After a successful rookie year in the NFL, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield could have chosen a million ways to spend his offseason. However, the former Oklahoma signal caller and No. 1 overall pick was back near the OU campus Wednesday holding his 3rd annual Baker Mayfield Football ProCamp.

While the Norman camp is one of at least three he holds around the country, he says the being back to where he made so many memories has a special feeling for him.

“Just feels to be back here,” Mayfield said. Second camp I’ve done here. Just feels good to be back around campus.”

However, it wouldn’t be a Baker Mayfield story if he didn’t provide a little controversy. After the camp concluded, he spoke with a local radio station and of course the topic of Texas and the talk of them winning a national championship this season came up. Despite being more than a year removed from college, Mayfield’s feelings about the Longhorns have not softened.

“They said that when they beat Notre Dame a couple years ago and they won two or three games after that,” Mayfield said. “I’m sick of that crap.”

But Mayfield saved his strongest opinions for Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who also played high school football in Austin, Texas.

“He (Ehlinger) couldn’t beat Lake Travis, so I don’t really care about his opinion on winning,” Mayfield said. “Westlake is a great program, but the two best quarterbacks to come out of there are Drew Brees and Nick Foles. Sam can stay down there in Texas.

“That will stir the pot,” Mayfield continued. “He doesn’t like me, and I hope he knows I don’t like him either.”

The camp was held at Reeves Field, just a few blocks south of Memorial Stadium. Several hundred kids in grades first through eighth flocked to the one-day event at a cost of $199 per camper.

But what stood most for Mayfield was being to provide the same type of inspiration he got when he attended camps growing up.

“Kids this age are looking up to people who are blessed enough to be in the position I am now. I remember looking up to guys who were doing the same things,” Mayfield said. “It’s important to be out here and be around them and let them have fun, work a little bit and just enjoy it. It’s really a blessing to be in the position I am right now.”

According to camp officials, Mayfield and the staff of coaches offer tips and hands-on instruction, including lectures, fundamental football skills stations, contests and games. The camp will be staffed by area top high school and college coaches.

While learning the game and improving skill sets was important, Mayfield had certain things he really wanted the campers to take away from the event.

“I think the big thing is just to listen to your coaches,” Mayfield said. “Having fun. Being around them and let them see the energy, the positivity and stuff like that.”

Even at his own camp, Mayfield became a little kid again when Oklahoma legends former coach Barry Switzer and tailback Billy Sims showed up out of the blue.

Switzer, who was wearing a shirt with Sims on it, asked Mayfield if Lincoln Riley has ever worn a shirt with him on it.

Before the duo left, they ran a play for the campers with Mayfield pitching the ball to Sims and Switzer out front blocking.

‘It’s very, very special,” Mayfield said. “It surprised me. Two legends around these parts. Two great people. To kind of just show up and take their time and have some fun with it. I didn’t know Barry could still move like that.”

During his five-minute media session, Mayfield was asked a variety of questions, including to compare the Fan bases of Oklahoma and Cleveland.

“I love the fan base here,” Mayfield said. “I always will, but Cleveland’s a different animal, it really is,” Mayfield said. “It’s a football town. I think the Thunder take a little bit from here, even though they have the Cavaliers and Indians in Cleveland. But it’s a football town, and it’s a lot of fun to play here.”

Mayfield also talked about the two quarterbacks who have proceeded him at OU. When he was asked if he has talked to Kyler Murray since he was drafted No. 1 overall by the Arizona Cardinals.

“I have. I have talked to Kyler a couple of times throughout the process,” Mayfield said. “Then just a couple of updates during OTAs. It’s a different ballgame, but nothing he can’t handle.”

As far as Jalen Hurts, who transferred to Oklahoma during the spring, Mayfield just wants him to be himself.

“I’d say it was the same thing I told Kyler, to be himself,” Mayfield said. “He doesn’t need to try and do anything we did. He needs to do his game; that’s good enough. There’s a reason he’s here, there’s a reason he’s a national champion. Him being a leader, he needs to continue that first and foremost and just to be himself. Lincoln will do a great job of adapting to whatever he’s best at. Throughout the process of the offseason he’ll learn the offense and we’ll see.”

Michael Kinney Media Services

Sooners,Cowgirls on collision course

 

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – In three years at Texas A&M Samantha Show never came close to playing in the Women’s College World Series. So as she entered the 2019 WCWS with Oklahoma State, it would have been understandable if the Texas native was jittery.

However, Show was far from that. The right-handed hurler led OSU to a 2-1 win over Florida Thursday in their opening game of the WCWS at USA Hall of Fame Stadium.

Show was 2-for-3 from the plate with two homers. The rest of the Cowgirls were held hitless.

Show also picked up the complete-game victory after allowing six hits and one run.

“I’m super excited for her,” OSU coach Kenny Gajewski said. “But I’ll be honest, she doesn’t care. She wants this team and this program that gave her kind of the second chance. She was a star when she got here. Her first year at A&M, she was unreal. She was a bona fide star. She’s a bona fide All-American. She’s one of the best players in the country.”

After being shut down for the entire night, the UF began to show life in the bottom of the seventh inning. Sophia Reynoso and Jordan Roberts came up with back to back singles to start the inning before Jade Caraway and Jordan Matthews both hit into fielder choices.

That set up Alex Voss with an opportunity to save the game. The senior came to the plate with two outs on the board and the tying run at third base.

But Show was just as strong on the mound as she was at the plate. She got Voss to ground out and end the game.

Along with only allowing two hits, Barnhill (34-13) struck out nine batters. But she knows she made a pair of mistakes a veteran pitcher can’t make.

“You don’t give her anything good to hit,” Barnhill said of Show. “I was trying to throw a screwball inside and I left it down the middle. She hit it them hard and far.”

To keep their season alive, Florida has to get by fellow SEC foe Alabama when they tangle at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The Tide won the regular season series 3-0.

Oklahoma 3, Alabama 2

The Sooners and Tide were all knotted up at 2-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. Jocelyn led off the inning for the Sooners with a walk. Two batters later Nicole Mendes laced a triple to the centerfield wall to plate a run and put Oklahoma up by a run.

Throughout her career Mendes has had a knack for coming up with big plays at the WCWS.

“I like to compete,” Mendes said. “And this is where the biggest teams come to compete. It just brings something out in me. I just get really excited and amped up.”

Giselle Juarez didn’t have her best stuff on the mound, but in the seventh inning she was good enough. She used her defense to close out the game and hand the Sooners the victory.

Juarez bounced back from a shaky start that included giving up a homer to pick up her 27th win of the season.

“Key I guess was just letting it go, just not letting it affect our game. Looking forward” Juarez said. “

“Moving onto the next pitch.”

The win sets up an All-Big 12 meeting between the two local teams at the WCWS. The top-ranked Sooners will take on Oklahoma State at 8:30 p.m. Friday. The Sooners swept the season series 3-0.

“OSU is a great team,” Sydney Romero said. “I just think the cool part about it is you have two Oklahoma teams playing in the World Series. Just the fact that both of thee teams are from Oklahoma, I think it just says a lot of stuff.”

Arizona 3, Washington 1 (8)

Arizona and Washington had a pitching duel for the first five innings of their opening game. But then the Wildcats Jessie Harper decided to interject some offense into the game. The junior crushed a solo homer to give UA a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth.

However, that lead was short-lived. The Huskies Sami Reynolds blasted a homer on the first pitch of the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game at 1-1.

The teams stayed scoreless until the top of the eighth inning when junior Dejah Mulipola sent a 2-run blast over the centerfield fence off Taran Alvelo. It turned out to be the game-winner with the Huskies unable to respond in the bottom of the inning.

“Facing Alvelo in my first couple at-bats, I knew she was throwing me out,” Mulipola said. “I was sitting on that. I think she understood I was sitting on that. She started coming in the next few at-bats. I was trying to breathe, see a pitch. I happened to see one. Actually, I didn’t think it was out. When I tell that to everyone, they don’t believe me. That’s why I was so excited running around first base when it did go over.”

Washington, who made it to the championship series last year, will have its season on the line when they take the field at 11 a.m. Saturday against Minnesota.

“We’re just glad we get to play again,” Washington coach Heather Tarr said. “It would be awful if that was our last game. We’re happy we get to play again.”

UCLA 7, Minnesota 2

It didn’t take the Bruins long to get on the board. Bubba Nickles crushed a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the first inning.

“I think it was really crucial to get our momentum going,” Nickles said. “I just wanted to come out for them the best I could, and have a quality at-bat, really. Wasn’t trying to hit a home run. It worked out to get us ahead.”

The Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead and looked on their way to an easy win. But the Gophers closed the gap to 3-2 in the sixth on a pair of RBIs from Natalie DenHartog and Allie Arneson.

However, UCLA responded in the bottom of the inning with four runs. That included a 3-run shot by Aaliyah Jordan to put the contest away.

“It felt good,” Jordan said. “I mean, I had a plan going up first at-bat, I didn’t get what I wanted. I think staying positive throughout these three at-bats, coming up the last at-bat get the pitch I wanted felt good.”

The Bruins will face Arizona Friday at 6 p.m.

 

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Copywriter/Content Creator

Arizona was built for the WCWS

 

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — No coach at the Women’s College World Series has as much experience as Mike Candrea. The cagey veteran is in his 34th season at Arizona and has compiled an impressive resume that includes eight national championships and an Olympic Gold Medal.

Yet, when his all-American catcher, Dejah Mulipola heard what Candrea had in store for the Wildcats when practice opened in the fall, even she had to take a step back.

‘My first thought was extremely scared,” Mulipola said. “I was terrified. I was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to die. I’ve never done training like this. I don’t think I’m physically fit, mentally fit.’”

What Candrea put in place that had his team petrified was called The Program. It involved a group of Navy Seals attending the Wildcats’ practice for three days to put them through drills and situations to build championship teams.

“The Program is not concerned about talent or winning individual games,” founder Eric Kapitulik stated on his website. “We care about competing for championships — and to compete for a championship, we must make a commitment as individuals and as a team to getting ‘that much better’ every single day. We do this by being good team leaders and good teammates and by preparing ourselves every day to fill either role.”

According to the Program, they believe leadership and team cohesion can only be developed through the experience of shared adversity. So the instructors put the Wildcats through situations that tested them physically and mentally.

“We did a water workout where we had to swim across the pool, swim back. We were treading water as we were taking off our wet sweaters and then putting them back on,” Mulipola said. “It kind of taught you to communicate with your team to survive or else you’re going to drown. So it was just communication. Learning to listen to commands as well as give them. Just working as a team, just working as one unit to accomplish a mission. I think that tied into season and softball and how we can incorporate that into our softball world.”

The fruits of those three days in the fall are now being seen with Arizona making the WCWS for the first time since 2010.

Mulipola hit a mammoth game-winning 2-run homer in the eighth inning Thursday to lead the Wildcats past Washington in Game 1 of the WCWS.

“The leaders that were leading in the program are leaders on the team now,” Mulipola said. “So Taylor (McQuillin), me, Jesse (Harper), people like that. Just learning to listen to whoever is trying to help you in a way, to help you to survive on the field, you understand it will get you somewhere. It’s for the benefit of you.”

According to Mulipola, it also took one other important decision by the team to get where they are now.

“Our team bought into what coach was selling for the first year ever,” Mulipola said. “Everyone was buying into their positions, their roles on the teams and I truly felt that throughout the season, which I think was very beneficial for us.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Copywriter/Content Creator