June 29, 2014
By Chad Shepard
Last Thursday (June 26) at Mitch McGary's home in Chesterton, Ind., a crowd of about forty friends and relatives packed into the family's garage, watching intently to hear a familiar name called. When the Oklahoma City Thunder selected McGary with the 21st overall selection in the NBA Draft, the place erupted.
"I didn't know what to do," McGary said, "I was just in awe. I thought my house was going to come down because it was so loud."
McGary was especially grateful to have gone through the process while being surrounded by so many people that are close to him.
"I hugged every single person at my house," he said, "I'm just thankful for them."
Ears still humming, he paused the celebration momentarily to make a phone call. Even in the chaotic and fulfilling moments after being drafted, McGary made a point to express his appreciation to one of the people most instrumental in helping him achieve his lifelong dream.
Back on the floor of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the site of the draft, John Beilein also heard a ringing in his ears -- his phone. McGary was on the other end, with words of gratitude for his now former coach.
"I just told him I'm thankful for everything he's done for me," said McGary, "Through the adversities I faced, he's always been there for me, always stuck through it, no matter how high or low."
Shortly after McGary's name was read by new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, assistant coach LaVall Jordan tweeted a picture of Beilein with the big man.
McGary elaborated on the appreciativeness he felt for Beilein and the rest of his U-M coaches.
"I'm so grateful to him and the coaching staff there," said McGary, "He's always been there supporting me, trying to make me not only a better player but a better person."
McGary believes playing in Beilein's offense made him a more attractive draft prospect, as well.
"The offense he runs is similar to the NBA style," McGary explained, "With a lot of pick-and-roll, a lot of four-out, one-in type stuff, it's going to transition me well to the NBA."
Thunder general manager Sam Presti agrees.
"He's a guy we've followed for quite some time," he said on Friday during the introductory press conference for McGary and the team's other first-round selection, Stanford's Josh Huestis.
Presti talked about the qualities the franchise was looking for in their draft picks in his opening statement.
"We are getting players who understand their contribution to winning and have experience impacting winning," he said, "We are incredibly thrilled to have these types of competitors and these types of people in Oklahoma City Thunder uniforms."
The Thunder have been to the Western Conference finals in three of the last four seasons, reaching the finals in 2012, and boast the NBA's reigning MVP and scoring champ, Kevin Durant.
"They're a first-class organization that not only takes high-character guys, but guys who are also very talented and can help them win a championship," said McGary.
Presti also complimented McGary's passion, energy and basketball IQ, noting that he "brings a toughness that we value."
McGary is excited about what he can bring to the organization.
"I'm hoping to bring a little bit more edge, a little bit more toughness, a little bit more energy on the defensive end," he said, "I can't wait to get started and play with my teammates."
Though he is eager for the future, McGary will have memories from his draft experience that he will always be able to look back on fondly.
"Getting that call was amazing," said McGary in reflection, "I feel great about it."
Coach Beilein could say the same thing.
(L) Mitch McGary holding up his No. 33 jersey (number he wore in prep school) with Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti at an introductory press conference on Friday, June 27. Photo/AP
Mitch McGary answering questions for media scrum on his first day in Oklahoma City. Photo/Oklahoma City Thunder