The Thunder has the NBA’s third-youngest roster and its second-youngest starting lineup. Several players should still be in college, or are not that far removed from college.
Of the Thunder’s 14 roster players, only three attended college for four years — Nick Collison (Kansas), Royal Ivey (Texas) and Eric Maynor (Virginia Commonwealth).
This youth certainly is evident inside the Thunder locker room in March during the NCAA Tournament. Four Thunder players are No. 1 seeds in Daequan Cook and Byron Mullens (Ohio State), plus Cole Aldrich and Collison (Kansas).
Ohio State faces Nazr Mohammed’s No. 4-seeded Kentucky team on Friday in Newark. Cook playfully suggested he and Mohammed might not pass to each other Wednesday (Utah) or Friday (Minnesota) because of that game. KU plays Richmond in San Antonio on Friday and potentially could face Maynor for a berth to the Final Four on Sunday.
Kevin Durant and Ivey were underseeded at No. 4 and Texas suffered a painful 70-69 loss to Arizona in large part due to a questionable five-second violation against the Longhorns on an in-bound play, which still has Durant shaking his head. Russell Westbrook’s No. 7-seeded UCLA team ousted Michigan State in the opening round, but couldn’t survived Florida. Nate Robinson’s No. 7-seeded Washington Huskies could have, and probably should have, beaten No. 2 North Carolina, but wilted down the stretch.
No one is puffing out his chest more than the 175-pound Maynor, who was recruited to VCU by former Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel. Maynor is a No. 11 seed who many inside (and outside) the locker room believed didn’t deserve a tournament berth. Instead, VCU is two wins away from advancing from the so-called First Four (play-in games) to the Final Four. The Rams have beaten teams by an average of 16.3 points — Southern Cal by 13; Georgetown by 18; and Purdue by 18.
Each time VCU has a game, someone from the other side of the locker room (usually Cook) tells Maynor to enjoy his last game of the season. “You’ve been saying that for three games now,” Maynor said.
The only player on the Thunder roster from a school that didn’t qualify for the tournament is Arizona State’s James Harden.