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Oklahoma City Thunder: We are absolutely hooked on this Texas Longhorn

By John Rohde Modified: February 28, 2009 at 12:26 am •  Published: February 28, 2009

photo - The Thunder’s Kevin Durant has become a quick fixture in the state of Oklahoma.  Photo by nate billings, the oklahoman
The Thunder’s Kevin Durant has become a quick fixture in the state of Oklahoma. Photo by nate billings, the oklahoman
Tucker, plus had more seasons alongside former teammates D.J. Augustin, A.J. Abrams and Damion James.

It pains Barnes he got to coach Durant only one year, but 2006-07 is a season Barnes still embraces.

"The year he had here is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Barnes said of Durant, who averaged 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds while being named consensus national player of the year as a freshman.

"Kevin Durant improved more in a four-month period than any player I’ve ever been around,” said Barnes who is in his 22nd season as a college coach. "I’m not just talking as a player. I’m talking about the whole package. The way he matured really is just mind-boggling.”

Durant’s game continues to improve, but his soul remains the same.

After Durant was named MVP of the Rookie Challenge held at All-Star Weekend, he refused to pose for pictures without teammates Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook standing alongside. NBA officials scrambled to round up the other two Thunder players.

Embracing his teammates isn’t just a show for Durant.

When Barnes asked Durant about players on the Thunder, "Kevin quickly deferred to Green, Westbrook and other guys on his team. He was like that here. You’d ask a question about him and he’d always talk about somebody else.”

Barnes admits he keeps tabs on Durant and other former UT players now in the NBA. Because he watches so much game tape, Barnes said he probably watches the NBA on TV more than he watches college ball.

Barnes’ prediction for Durant in the NBA?

"I think he’s a Hall of Famer, and I’ve told him that,” Barnes said. "When he was here he told me privately, ’One day, I want to be the best.’

"It’s hard to describe all that Kevin is. But you know what? He just gets it. He really gets it. He knows it’s not just about him, and yet he’s fearless. He’s not afraid to fail. He has absolutely great passion.”

Great passion for Texas. Great passion for Oklahoma.

A rare combination indeed.

John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.