Tucked deep inside Rwanda's mountainous terrain, the small Central African village of Rwankuba doesn't have Internet, doesn't have running water and doesn't have much connection to the outside world.
It's a war-stricken country, still recovering from the devastating mass genocide that killed more than 500,000 people (about 20 percent of the population) in 1994.
So it came as no surprise to Betsy Dewey, a Peace Corps volunteer from Oklahoma City, that the Rwandan natives had never heard of her home state.
“New York or California?” they'd ask back in January, her first month in the village, when she introduced herself as an American.
“Oklahoma,” she'd reply. “It's in the center of the country, but it's not famous. Don't worry.”
There was no expectation that they'd know. So there was no reason for her to believe Luke, one of her oldest students, when he proclaimed: “Oh yeah, I know Oklahoma.”
“No you don't, Luke,” she laughed.
“Yeah, I do,” he replied. “They have the Thunder. Do you know Russell Westbrook?”
Dewey teaches English at the village's boarding school. At around 8 or 9, the kids are required to learn the language. She's there to help them through it.
But because of convenience — she has a personal laptop, one of the only computers in Rwankuba — Betsy also teaches a regular computing class.
Fifty-five students, no Internet, one computer.
“I'm kind of just winging it,” she said. “I didn't study computers in college, but I'm American, so they figure I know more about computers than them. It's a slow process, but they enjoy seeing my laptop. We draw pictures and try to make it work.”
Because of that, Betsy quickly learned of their lack of access to technology and globalized information.
So there she stood, in awe, when two weeks into her stay, one of the students was striking up a conversation about a basketball player halfway across the world.
“I was in complete shock,” she remembered. “I called home and was telling everyone that you'll never believe it, but one of my kids knows about the Thunder.”
The students are given a break in November and December, allowed to visit any remaining family or friends across the country.
That's when Luke, apparently, was first introduced to his new favorite player. He heard Westbrook's name on the radio, saw a few highlights and decided he liked the Thunder.
“It was definitely not something, coming to Rwanda, that I thought I'd have in common with an 18-year-old boy,” Dewey said. “But it just shows that the Thunder is huge. I live in the middle of nowhere. It's crazy that the Thunder is reaching these tiny, tiny areas in the heart of Africa.”
The two developed a bond over the next few months, grown through teaching but sparked by that initial basketball connection.
So when Betsy's father, Lyle, was coming to visit her in late July, they had an idea.
Lyle wanted to bring gifts for the students, and what would they enjoy more than Thunder gear?
Through word-of-mouth and Facebook, Lyle, an executive assistant at Bailey Oil in OKC, gathered donations at his work.
In all, he packed more than 60 Thunder shirts, to go along with banners, an official team basketball and other memorabilia.
Soccer is easily the country's most popular sport, but basketball has recently gained a little steam.
Every weekday, the students get about an hour for physical activity. And a group of them commonly gather on an abandoned cement lot, an impromptu basketball court where a building was originally planned.
The hoop isn't ideal, with no net or backboard, but it'll do.
And that's where Dewey had them congregate in late July, to meet her father and get a surprise gift.
One-by-one, they handed out the shirts and other gear.
“They were just elated, they were pumped, they were excited,” Betsy Dewey remembered. “And of course, Luke got a black T-shirt with Russell's face on it. And he's just obsessed with it. I swear, if he didn't have to wear a uniform to school, he would wear it every single day.”
Word got around the village and, soon, a crowd had gathered to watch the kids play, deep in the mountains of Africa, wearing Thunder shirts and using an OKC basketball.
“It was really special,” Lyle Dewey said.
“Luke will always try to make weird moves and say, ‘Look, I am like Russell',” Betsy Dewey laughed, adding that she sees the students playing basketball a lot more now.
“It's so weird,” she continued, “living in my village, it's probably about 2,000 people. And on the weekend, when the students don't have to wear their uniform, you see all these blue shirts that say ‘Let's go Thunder.'”