Having lived in Oklahoma the first 37 years of his life, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self is familiar with the surroundings here, which is one reason he believes the Thunder is the perfect fit for rookie center Cole Aldrich.
Self said the 6-foot-11, 236-pound Aldrich is a big kid who will feel right at home in one of the NBA's smaller cities.
"I don't think Cole could have gone to a better place than Oklahoma City," Self said. "He'll be so much more comfortable with the environment that exists there. That organization has done a fabulous job, not just at winning games but creating a family type environment I think Cole will thrive in.
"I don't want to say this in the wrong way, but I think Cole will operate very well in a smaller market. He could possibly get lost in some bigger places. I think all young kids can. Cole is fired up. His whole family is fired up right now."
The Thunder traded up in Thursday night's draft to get Aldrich from New Orleans, a deal which can not be completed or discussed by either team until the NBA moratorium is lifted July 8.
The Thunder swapped the No. 21 and No. 26 selections to the Hornets for the No. 11 pick, which was used to take Aldrich. The Thunder also had to take 32-year-old guard Morris Peterson, who is guaranteed a $6.61 million contract next season.
In the eyes of NBA scouts, Aldrich's biggest assets are his defensive presence, rebounding, shot blocking, passing and work ethic. Aldrich set a school record with 125 blocks last season and averaged 9.8 rebounds, which was second in the Big 12 to Damion James of Texas (10.3).
"I'm not going to try to go in and do spectacular things," Aldrich said. "I'm going to stick with the things I'm good at. I'm very good at shot blocking, defending and rebounding and I think that's how I'm going to make my presence on the court early is by doing those things. And I'm definitely working hard on my offensive game, too."
Aldrich's offensive repertoire needs work, although he averaged 11.3 points, shot 56.2 percent from the field and 67.9 percent from the free-throw line as a junior last season.
"He's not a prolific scorer, but he can get the ball in the basket," Self said. "He'll get better moving forward. I'm not going to predict double-figure scoring as a rookie, but I do think he's a guy who could eventually average double-figures. I do know this: He can rebound the ball. In his area, outside his area, he can rebound the ball and he doesn't play soft going after it."
Self said if you want something from Aldrich, just ask.
"Cole will be the consummate teammate," Self said. "He'll be the ultimate teammate. He'll accept whatever role. He can take coaching. He can take criticism. He certainly can handle all that."
Helping ease Aldrich's transition, he will join another Jayhawk on the Thunder roster in forward/center Nick Collison, who on draft night posted this on his Twitter page to Aldrich: "Im excited to have u on the squad. Even more excited 4you to bring me my newspaper &eggwhite omelete every morning rookie."
Though Collison left KU seven years ago and did not play for Self, he remains close to the program and has talked with Aldrich numerous times.
"Nick and Cole know each other well," Self said. "I don't think there's any question it will be beneficial for Cole. Although we didn't get to coach Nick, we know him and think he's an absolute stud. He'll be a great mentor for Cole."
Self said he and his staff had heard rumblings of the Thunder's desire to land Aldrich.
"It seems to me that was a remarkable move to get that No. 11 pick," Self said. "(Thunder general manager) Sam Presti and his staff have done an absolutely incredible job, and I'm sure everybody in Oklahoma City thinks the same."
Under the NBA's rookie salary scale, Aldrich is slated to make $1,772,100 this season, followed by $1,905,000 and $2,037,900 his second and third seasons.
The Ford Center was the site of Aldrich's last collegiate game, a 69-67 upset loss to Northern Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.