In need of a tall body, the Oklahoma City Thunder looked 25 miles south and added former Oklahoma center Longar Longar to its training camp roster.
Though Longar's roster presence is temporary, he wore a permanent smile following the Thunder's first workout of the season Tuesday.
"This is a great opportunity for me," said the 6-foot-11, 230-pound Longar. "These guys are some of the best players in the world. Just being around something this special is a blessing."
Starting center Nenad Krstic had surgery last week to his right (shooting) index finger and likely will miss most of training camp. The Thunder also determined during a Tuesday morning exam that forward Nick Collison will be out indefinitely with a bone bruise in his left knee.
"It gives us an extra body," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of signing Longar, "and it gives him an opportunity to show us what he can do. I don't know much about him, but he gave us good energy today."
Longar had been working out in Norman with OU director of student/athlete performance Jozsef Szendrei when the Thunder called late Saturday.
Born in Sudan and one of 11 children in his family, Longar played with the Sooners from 2004-08. He had career averages of 7.2 points and 4.3 rebounds and was OU's second-leading scorer his senior season.
Longar gained notoriety for an incident on Jan. 6, 2007, when he was chinning the ball and his elbow struck Red Raiders center Esmir Rizvic, who suffered a broken eye socket.
Rizvic missed the remainder of the season. Longar was suspended for two games.
Texas Tech coach Bob Knight said he believed Longar deliberately elbowed Rizvic.
"That was a really, really bad situation," Knight said at the time. "I'm not sure that guy (Longar) should be able to play anymore. That was just... that was bad, when a kid gets hurt that badly on a play that isn't even really a part of basketball."
Asked what he learned from the incident, Longar said, "It was tough, but I had my teammates and coaches supporting me. The city of Norman supported me and it pretty much felt like the whole state did. It was nothing intentional. It just happened. I actually wrote the guy (Rizvic) a letter apologizing and telling him it was not intentional."
After his final season with the Sooners, Longar signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Timberwolves and played on their Summer League roster.
He played pro ball for three months in Turkey, then played with the Los Angeles D-Fenders and later with the Bakersfield Jams in the NBA Developmental League before being sidelined with a knee injury last season. In 25 career games in the D-League, Longar averaged 7.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 21.4 minutes.
Longar returned to OU and earned his bachelor's degree in human relations. He will participate in next May's graduation ceremony, but for now will spend his time with the Thunder.
If Longar impresses, he could end up with the Tulsa 66ers in the D-League, the Thunder's farm team.
"Right now, my job is to help these guys out," Longar said. "The fact I get to be around here, I'm just enjoying it, man."