Thursday, October 2, 2008

Meet the Thunder, Part 1

I am a creature of habit, and it is hard to forget my roots. I grew up in a small river town in Iowa, and basketball was my first sports love. My dad poured a concrete court for me in the backyard, and I purposely made sure the apricot trees were not trimmed in the summer. This gave me a home-court advantage which I didn't object to using at any time.

Going as far back as I can recall, every top recruit from the state picked the Iowa Hawkeyes or ISU Cyclones. This home-state advantage was shattered when two high school stars didn't follow the normal path and took a different road to the NBA.

Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich shared the 1999 Iowa Mr. Basketball award, and they ended up roommates at the University of Kansas. Both were first-round draft picks in 2003 after leading the Jayhawks to a runner-up finish in the NCAA Tournament.

Collison's pro career was derailed by two shoulder surgeries, and he missed his entire rookie season. After coming back healthy, the power forward/center was a key cog in the Seattle Supersonics wheel the last four years. His stats improved each season while nearly posting a double-double in points and rebounds last year.

He is expected to be a leader on the young squad, and Oklahoma City should benefit from Collison returning to his Midwest roots, where he set records in every step of his basketball career.

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