Thunder rookie forward Josh Huestis made his first appearance at a team-sponsored community event Thursday afternoon, helping campers through a basketball clinic at an area high school.
Afterward, Huestis talked about being a role model, helping kids fall in love with basketball and how the defensive side of the ball became so important to him.
Q: These kids’ eyes lit up when you were interacting with them. What does it mean to you to know that you were in their shoes not too long ago, but now you’re the role model, you’re the idol to these kids?
A: “It’s surreal. I’ve always wanted to be somebody that can affect lives. Basketball is great and everything. But at the end of the day, what I mainly want to do is I want to find a way to change the world. And if I could come in here and reach one kid even, that’s fine with me. It’s just a great experience, and I want to do more of it.”
At this age, what’s important for kids to learn in these camps?
“It’s really important to teach the basics of basketball and everything like that. But to me, at this age, it’s all about falling in love with the game first. I think when they’re young too much drilling and trying to make it super organized might burn them out. But just help them fall in love with the game first, and if they want to keep pursuing it then they’ll do that.”
When did you fall in love with the game?
“Early. I started playing because my dad played, and I wanted to be like him. Once I saw the feeling it gives you, the amazing feeling of playing with your teammates, winning and just progressing and seeing your dreams come true, I just can’t imagine living my life without it.”
Kids say some funny things, and a few said some funny things to you. What was your conversations like with the kids?
“It’s funny, like you said. They’re just so curious. They’ve got so many questions. They’re kind of all over the place. There’s basketball questions, and then they started to chant, ‘Dunk it. Dunk it,’ telling me to dunk the ball. But I heard Mitch (McGary) was in here dunking the ball. I’ll just leave it to him. I don’t know if I could get anything out of me right now. We just finished up with a workout.”
What were some of the things that they asked you?
“One of the best questions I got, a couple of times actually, was why do you like playing defense? Why is defense important? To me, that’s a really important question. I told them offense doesn’t always go every single day. Shots don’t fall all the time. But defense is something you can do every single day. It’s all about hard work and whatever you can do to help your team win.”
When did you adopt that defensive mentality?
“I’ve had it a lot. In high school, that was something I took pride in. And especially when I got to college I got in there and defense was how I got playing time. I really realized that going into it, offense wasn’t what I was brought there to do at first. So defensively I wanted to be somebody that could come and lock somebody down and rebound because that was what would get me on the floor. And once I saw how that affected the game and got me more time then I really adopted that mentality.”
Do you take more pride in scoring or shutting someone down?
“Shutting someone down. There are so many scorers in this league. The NBA’s got all the scorers they need. But there’s always room for guys to come and lock people down. And that’s somebody I want to be.”
What did the coaches tell you after summer league that they’d like to see you work on?
“I think it’s a lot of different things. Continuing to work on my offensive game, working on ball-handling and shooting. Just continuing to expand my game. I think that I’m somebody that can be really versatile for the team, and I think as long as I keep working on a variety of things it’ll help me see time.”
BY DARNELL MAYBERRY