Thunder-Grizzlies: Meet Ray Westbrook, the brother behind the Scott Brooks tweet

RAY WESTBROOK — The Westbrook brothers stick together, all the way from Los Angeles to Oklahoma, where Russell stars at point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Ray is still dreaming his own athletic dream, and offering GM Sam Presti some unsolicited advice.
by Jenni Carlson Published: April 30, 2014

The Bronchos wanted him in Oklahoma.

So did big brother.

But Ray decided to stay for a second season at El Camino. He liked his team. He had good friends. And what if he played well enough to catch the eye of a Division-I school?

His sophomore season got off to a good start for both him and the team, but then midway through the season, one of the players was ruled ineligible and the team had to forfeit all of its games to that point. It knocked the season off the tracks.

But UCO’s interest in Ray continued, so he signed with the Bronchos.

Like his brother, he moved to Oklahoma to play ball.

*

Ray ended up being ineligible to play in 2011, his first season at UCO, but he was expected to be a back-up running back the next season. After spring classes finished and before offseason workouts began, he went home to see family and celebrate his 21st birthday.

His mom threw a big party. Everyone was having a great time.

But Ray was a little worried about one of his best friends, Ken McRoyal. They met during summer football camps, and even though they went to different high schools, they became close. Then, they went to El Camino together.

Both were undersized. Both had doubters. And both had big, engaging personalities.

But that night at the birthday party, Ken seemed a little off. Ray knew he had been drinking, and when Ken said he was going out after the party, Ray was skeptical.

“I don’t think you should go,” Ray told him. “Just come with me. Let’s go eat.”

But Ken waved him off and headed out.

Less than an hour later, Ray got a phone call from a friend.

“Ken got shot,” he told Ray.

Soon, the phone rang again. This time, it was Ken’s girlfriend. She was hysterical, crying and screaming.

“He’s dead!”

Ken’s death became a national story. He was a wide receiver at Idaho, and his journey there resonated with people everywhere. His family had moved to California after Hurricane Katrina flooded their New Orleans home. They carried out some of personal possessions, but as flood waters continued to rise, they eventually had to abandon everything. They were left with only the clothes on their backs.

They waded through reeking waters, past dead bodies.

He graduated high school, went to junior college, then walked on at Idaho. After paying his own way for a year, he finally learned that he was getting a scholarship, then left for California a few days later.

He never made it back to campus.

“It changed my whole life,” Ray said. “It changed me to who I am today.”

*

Ray Westbrook was sweating again.

After nearly two hours of lifting weights of all shapes and sizes at Athletic Republic, a gym just down the street from the Thunder’s old practice facility, his black shirt with the white Jordan logo was sticking to his barrel chest. But there was still work to do.

On a hardwood surface painted with numbers and color blocks for plyometrics, he hopped for 30 seconds, his purple and neon pink Jordan 28s moving as fast as he could make them. He went from number to number, then block to block.

Thirty seconds never lasted so long.

Who knows what’s next for him. He never did play football for UCO, but he is on track to get his bachelor’s degree in communications later this month. Then, he would like to walk on to the football team at Oklahoma State and start work on a master’s degree in the fall.

Until then, he’ll keep riding shotgun with his big brother. Yes, they make for an odd couple, Russell in his designer duds and Ray in his Russell Westbrook replica jerseys. Sure, they seem an unlikely pair, Russell so brooding and Ray so happy-go-lucky.

But don’t expect any more headline-grabbing tweets from little brother. Ray Westbrook is staying off the social media site for awhile.

Too bad. Things were just getting good.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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