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Oklahoma City Thunder: Thunder places its trust in No. 1 pick Mitch McGary

In the spring, while his Michigan teammates were competing in the NCAA Tournament, an injured McGary tested positive for marijuana. Both issues, as far as we know, are foreign to the Thunder.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: June 27, 2014

photo - Sam Presti introduces Thunder draft pick Mitch McGary at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma CIty,  Friday, June 27, 2014. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Sam Presti introduces Thunder draft pick Mitch McGary at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma CIty, Friday, June 27, 2014. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Clearly, the Thunder, as always, did enough reconnaissance on the other issues to feel comfortable making McGary its man.

“I feel like I know a lot about him,” Presti said.

After transferring from Chesterton High in Indiana following his junior year, McGary played two more prep seasons (he repeated his junior year) at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., a basketball powerhouse two hours from Presti’s hometown of Concord, Mass.

“He’s been a guy that we’ve watched for quite a while,” Presti said.

A pot-smoker was not the McGary that Presti knew. Connections back east, as well as strong relationships with Michigan’s basketball program, confirmed to Presti that he wouldn’t have anything to worry about with McGary.

In the eyes of Presti, McGary showed his true character through the manner in which he responded to his positive test, a violation that carried a one-year suspension under NCAA rules when McGary was busted.

“How he handled that situation, quite frankly, he took accountability, he showed that he was remorseful and he said publicly that he’s really learned from it,” Presti said. “We’ve done an incredible amount of due diligence on him and quite honestly on all the players in the draft...If I wasn’t comfortable with the work that we’ve done over the last three years, then we wouldn’t have moved forward with him.”

And the back?

“We’ve done a lot of work and were pretty aggressive early on at Michigan, and we’ve got a lot of confidence that he’s in a position to have a very productive career,” Presti said.

McGary said Friday that his back is doing great but added that he’s still not 100 percent.

“I’m recovering, rehabbing every day,” he said. “Just trying to get better each and every day. It feels great. I’ve been back on the court. I would like to play in summer league, and I plan to.”

If he does take the floor in the Orlando Pro Summer League on July 5, McGary will snap a seven-month layoff.

He can’t wait.

“It was difficult for me to sit on the sidelines, especially during the NCAA run when the previous year our team made it to the final game. But it really made me sit back and not take things for granted because basketball can be taken away from you just like that.”

McGary motivated his teammates any way that he could while sidelined. He cheered them. He encouraged them. He instructed them. He rebounded for them in pre-game warmups. Most importantly, he stayed positive.

It stood out to the Thunder just as much as anything McGary did on the court.

“The last thing that is really, really impressive to us and the reason why we value him even more is he’s an incredible teammate. Just an incredible teammate,” Presti said. “I felt like I was scouting him on the bench when he wasn’t playing. The way he engaged with his teammates. His support was unwavering. His enthusiasm was unwavering. And combine that with his skill set and intangibles and that’s a Thunder player for us.”

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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