The Oklahoma City Thunder are built on tradition.
Since the franchise's relocation in 2008, the Thunder have rallied around the Oklahoma motto “Labor Omnia Vincit,” which translates to “work conquers all.” Whenever a franchise figure discusses the Latin motto, it comes from a place of pride, attributing the efforts of the team to that of the state and its people.
Outside of the surface level statement, the Oklahoma City Thunder have tapped even further into the state-wide sentiment. I say this because, as of late, the organization has looked in-state for its on-court production.
Last week, the Thunder officially kickstarted their pre-draft efforts. In this batch, Thunder GM Sam Presti brought on Oklahoma guard Jordan Goldwire and Iona guard Tyson Jolly for inspection – two players with Oklahoma ties.
Goldwire, age 22, grew up in Georgia before joining the Duke Blue Devils. However, his transfer to crimson and cream placed him right in the heart of Oklahoma and one 45-minute drive away from the Paycom Center.
In the case of Jolly, his five-year collegiate tenure saw him play for Baylor, SMU, and Iona as a redshirt senior. On the surface level, the guard spent no time in Oklahoma, but that's far from the case. Born in Oklahoma City, Jolly emerged as one of the best high school players in the state. After three seasons at Putnam City West High School, he fielded an offer with SMU.
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For both men, the Thunder provided them with their first outlet to NBA teams. This love of evaluating in-state talent has been forever part of the franchise.
Throughout the Thunder’s history, the team has been plastered with players holding Oklahoma ties. From the inaugural season involving Oklahoma State guard Desmond Mason, the franchise's first playoff appearance with Booker T. Washington standout Etan Thomas, to the tenures of Daniel Orton, Terrance Ferguson, and many more – there’s an in-state connection in the picture.
For Goldwire, Jolly, and many other Oklahoma prospects, there’s a strong likelihood of going undrafted this season. However, the Oklahoma City Blue have done a superb job handing in-state players opportunities as well. Last season, Oklahoma State alum Lindy Waters III climbed from a G League camp invite to an NBA contributor in less than a year. Prior to this, other former Cowboys such as Jawun Evans, Markel Brown, and Michael Cobbins were handed their own opportunities in the G, too.
As the pre-draft process continues, Oklahoma City may continue to pick at this pipeline. Look towards Oklahoma prospects, including Umoja Gibson (Oklahoma,) Avery Anderson III (Oklahoma State,) and Harrah-native Brady Manek (North Carolina,) among others.
With the Oklahoma City Blue expecting an overhaul, the Thunder may show interest in players sticking close to home.