The skinny kid’s shooting mechanics were so out of whack word on the AAU circuit was to lay off him. Add in the fact he played at a small high school and big-time BCS schools, even mid-majors, showed little interest in offering him a scholarship.
Jeff Capel’s father, though, knew the kid’s father, recalling how his father was one of the best shooters he had ever seen. The player’s father was talented enough to be a fourth-round NBA draft pick who later received a tryout with the Chicago Bulls. Five years later, the two-time Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year who hit the big shot to upset Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament could be one of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s core players for years to come. So what did Capel see in Eric Maynor to offer the 6-foot-3 point guard a scholarship to Virginia Commonwealth? "He had an incredible feel for the game,” said Capel, now coach at OU. "Although he couldn’t shoot you couldn’t stay in front of him.” Maynor has filled a major void. After going through candidates like Earl Watson, Shaun Livingston, Chucky Atkins and Kevin Ollie, the Thunder has found Russell Westbrook’s backup. His value goes beyond 3.7 points and 2.7 assists a game. A backup point guard’s primary role is to sustain the lead and not make mistakes, which is why Maynor’s 2.74 assists-to-turnover ratio is invaluable. The most revealing stat is the Thunder was 13-14 before Maynor arrived, 28-10 since he’s been in the rotation. And he fits right in with a workaholic young team on the rise. "Getting to know him through the recruiting process, talking to him you could tell he had a passion and was willing to work,” Capel said. "When you have that I knew he had the ability to improve as a shooter.” Maynor’s shot actually improved his senior year after transferring to Westover High School in Fayetteville, N.C., according his AAU coach Shaune Griffin. "What those big schools didn’t realize is he was committed to changing his shot,” Griffin said. "He came out and led the conference in 3-point baskets made. He was the conference’s leading scorer and conference player of the year. He had one of the highest 3-point percentages in the conference. "He’s always been able to score the ball. He’s a good defender. His basketball IQ is beyond reproach. Once he fixed his shot he was a complete player.” Maynor’s father, George, said not playing for a high profile ACC school might have been a blessing. "Eric made up his mind VCU was the school he wanted to go to,” George Maynor said.