And-Ones: Bazley, Superstars, Austin, Nike Academy

Thunder rookie Darius Bazley is ready for the challenges he’ll face in the NBA after taking a unique path to the league, Nick Friedell of ESPN writes.

Bazley, 19, was selected with the No. 23 pick in June’s draft by Utah and traded to Oklahoma City that night. Before getting drafted, he opted to skip college and pursue a potential path to the NBA by way of the G League, later skipping this route and focusing on improving his business knowledge and skills.

He would sign an endorsement deal with New Balance, which included a one-year internship with the company.

“You get some people here and there they’ll just ask you about it, ‘Yo, like how was it not going to college?'” Bazley said, as relayed by Friedell. “I know when I was going through the whole pre-draft process traveling from team to team before we’d go out and work out, [the other players would] all be talking about college. And someone would pop up and say, ‘Well, how was it, just sitting out?'”

Bazley immersed himself in the business side of New Balance, Friedell wrote, working diligently with the company when he wasn’t practicing at the facility to prepare for an eventual move to the draft.

“The main thing I really took away from that is just learning how to be professional,” he said. “That was my first job ever so having to go into work and being in an office space with a lot of middle-aged people — you got to learn to be professional. You got to learn to communicate with different people.”

For Bazley, a two-way forward with great potential on a Thunder team that currently lacks wing depth, his sights are now set on bringing values learned over the past year to his first NBA season this fall.

“His ability to handle the ball at his size is really, really unique, and defensively he’s got great range for a young player at that size, as well,” Thunder GM Sam Presti said. “It’s going to be a process with him. We’ll have to be patient. We understand that. But at that range of the draft, to be able to get a player that has those ballhandling skills at 6-foot-9 is pretty unique.”

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world tonight:

  • Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated explores the seven NBA stars with the most to prove during the 2019/20 season. Nadkarni’s list includes both LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the top three, with both players eager to prove they can win in Los Angeles.
  • Former Baylor center Isaiah Austin has signed in Lebanon with Beirut Club, the team announced on social media. Austin, who was projected as a first-round pick in 2014, was forced to spend two years away from the game after being diagnosed with Marfan syndrome. The 25-year-old has since held separate stints in Serbia, China and Lebanon.
  • Jonathon Givony of lists his takeaways from the Nike Basketball Academy, which included nearly 60 future NBA prospects (24 from college, 32 from high school). NBA players such as DeMar DeRozan, Bradley Beal and Devin Booker also joined in on drills and scrimmages throughout the process, according to Givony.
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