Speaking about Russell Westbrook for NBA TV's Oklahoma City Thunder season preview, Hall of Famer and current analyst Kevin McHale reminded viewers of the doubt that surrounded the team's point guard leading up to the 2008 NBA Draft.
"When he played at UCLA and we scouted him, him and Kevin Love on that team that went to the (NCAA) Final, I couldn't believe how dynamic the kid was," McHale said. "He did everything really well. I never thought he'd be this good in the NBA. I thought he'd be a stat stuffer, but not to the extent that he is."
Westbrook, who has blossomed into a borderline NBA All-Star, admitted he's surprised himself, too. Just four years ago, Westbrook was an overlooked high school prospect who lucked into a last-minute scholarship with the Bruins. Now, Westbrook is in the middle of a meteoric rise that never was in his game plan.
"Growing up, I never really thought about it," Westbrook said. "Everybody wants to play in the NBA. But I was kind of just trying to get to school so my parents wouldn't have to pay for it. I had to figure something out to get to school. And then I was just trying to be the best I could be.
"I didn't see none of this coming. It all happened so fast for me. I just try to stay humble and try to make the next jump. I'm just waiting to see what else happens."
While pundits were busy questioning whether Westbrook would evolve into the Thunder's permanent point guard during his rookie season, the team's decision-makers essentially shook their heads, smirked and said, "Just wait."
Now, the Thunder is reveling in Westbrook's rise.
"We expected Russell to be really good," said coach Scott Brooks. "We drafted him at a high spot to lead our team. And he did a pretty good job as a rookie. We expect Russell to continue to lead our team."
Ask anyone how Westbrook has done so well so fast and a two-word answer becomes the default response:
"He works out two or three times every day in the summer," Brooks said. "He's our first guy on the court. When we're meeting as coaches and you hear the ball bouncing, you know it's Russell. He's out there waiting for coach (Maurice) Cheeks to work with him."
Westbrook has taken his growing popularity with a grain of salt.
"It's a good accomplishment," Westbrook said. "But at the same time, I feel I haven't done anything yet. I still got to get better and make that next jump and try to make my team better."