By Randy Renner
Thunder rookie center Mitch McGary was right back where he wanted to be on a dreary, drizzly Wednesday afternoon…inside a basketball gym.
This time instead of refining his own game he was helping the young participants in the latest Thunder Youth Basketball Camp work on theirs.
“Just to be able to come out and give back to the community is incredible, to take some time out and go help some kids is pretty awesome, it’s great,” McGary said after he’d spent an hour or so with thye campers at Oklahoma City’s Casady School.
McGary never had the chance to go to a basketball camp and see an NBA player when he was growing up. Camps put on by Valparaiso University near his hometown in Indiana were as close as he ever came.
“At the time I thought the players there were basically NBA players and I just think it’s cool that little kids will look up to you and think of you very highly, they think the world of you.”
Some of them of course had never seen him before, but a few watched him play last week in the Orlando Summer League.
McGary was the second leading scorer on the Thunder summer squad, averaging almost 15 points and just over eight rebounds a game.
“It felt great to be back on the court but I was just dippin’ my toes in the water, trying to get adjusted to the style of play.”
McGary made clear his style of play is aggressive and uptempo. Despite back surgery last winter that ruined his last season at Michigan, McGary showed no ill effects in Orlando.
“I feel great,” he said. “I was anxious to get out there and eager. I thought I performed pretty decent considering I hadn’t played in eight months.”
That’s going to change now. McGary proved there’s no need to go slow so it’s full speed ahead with off-season workouts and continuing to get his body ready for training camp in 10 weeks.
“Really it’s just getting’ in shape. My back was the main thing and now that’s 100 percent so I need to get my body right.” He’s also been given some things the coaching staff would like to see him work on and improve over the next several weeks.
“Some of the intangibles, finishing around the rim, getting my jump shot right out to about 15 feet, just really trying to be a great team player and a great teammate.”
Fans who watched McGary in summer league were surely impressed with his ability to grab a rebound and then take off to lead the fast break, “yeah, a lot of people probably didn’t know I could do that,” he said with a grin.
But he also said not to expect much of that sort of thing when he suits up this fall.
“I had a little bit more freedom in summer league so I did a little bit more but I expect when Russell (Westbrook) and Kevin (Durant) get back it’s gonna be maybe one bust out dribble and kick to them…not me take it coast-to-coast, for sure.”
Of course if he’s out there when Russell and Kevin aren’t, well then he’d probably be more than willing to take the ball and run.