OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Kevin Durant’s emotional MVP speech made an impression on Mitch McGary and Josh Huestis long before the NBA draft.
During the now-famous address, Durant mentioned specific details he appreciated about each of his teammates — even the ones who didn’t play much or at all. McGary and Huestis both said they were blown away by Durant’s show of leadership that day. Once they became part of the Thunder organization as first-round picks Thursday night, they quickly learned quickly that Durant is as advertised.
“Kevin Durant already texted me this morning, saying I can’t wait to get to work,” McGary said during an introductory news conference Friday at the Oklahoma History Center. “I know these guys are eager to get us in the gym and get ready to be an NBA contender next year.”
Huestis got a message, too.
“To me, it’s absolutely incredible,” he said. “For someone like Kevin Durant, the top scorer in the world, to reach out to us, guys that just joined the organization, says something about his character and his vision of who the team can be.”
Thunder general manager Sam Presti said he chose McGary and Huestis, in part, because they are good, selfless teammates like Durant.
McGary only played eight games for Michigan last season before having back surgery. Yet he made an impression on Presti with the way he continued to interact with his teammates from the bench.
Huestis, a swingman, was good enough to be a first-round draft pick, despite just being fourth on Stanford’s team in scoring. He embraced his role and was voted to the Pac 12 defensive team in his junior and senior years.
Blessed with high skill levels, intelligence and toughness, Presti feels they match what the organization looks for.
“These guys in combination are what we feel add up to make us better than we were the day before,” Presti said.
Semaj Christon, a point guard from Xavier, was added in a draft-night deal with Charlotte for cash. The No. 55 pick wasn’t able to attend the introductory news conference.
McGary says his back feels good, and he wants to play in the summer league. Given that he missed so much time, and that he was facing a suspension for testing positive for marijuana last season, McGary is just thankful to have a chance to play in the league.
“It means everything,” he said. “For a team to take a chance on me after all the adversities I went through and the way I ended my collegiate career, it really shows a lot about them (the Thunder). They saw past the adversities and knew I could overcome them.”
One of Huestis’ best moments as a player came during last year’s NCAA tournament, when Stanford played Kansas and No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins. Huestis was primarily responsible for guarding Wiggins, who finished with four points on 1-for-6 shooting as Stanford pulled the upset.
Presti noticed that effort, but he said the other ones got his attention, too.
“I also think it’s valuable to see players in situations where the world’s not watching and recognize their ability to stay locked in, to fulfill their assignments when they are not playing a top 10 player,” Presti said. “He’s got a poise to him as a competitor that you don’t see in young people that often, the ability to stay within plays, recover from mistakes and not get distracted. And you combine that with what we feel is an elite package of athleticism. That’s the type of player we want to try to work with and see if we can continue to cultivate inside of our organization.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .
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