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

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