by Darnell Mayberry
Kyle Singler has long been linked to the Thunder, going back to the 2012 NBA Draft, when many projected Oklahoma City to select the 6-foot-8 forward out of Duke.
As it turns out, it wasn’t just prognosticators.
“Yeah, there was a moment when I thought it was going to happen,” Singler said.
Nearly three years later, the Thunder finally got its man.
In his first interview as a member of the Thunder, Singler talked about when he found out he was traded, what he brings to the team and why he always thought he’d be on the Thunder roster.
Q: What’s the last 48 hours been like?
A: It’s been a quick few hours. But it’s a lot of mixed emotions for me. When I first heard the news I was pretty shocked. It was right after we had practice. So it kind of happened quick for me and for D.J. It was just a quick turnaround. I had to pack up some things and then took an early morning flight to OKC.
What do you know about current Thunder players? Do you have any preexisting relationships with any of the guys?
No. I haven’t playing on any teams with anyone, besides D.J., that’s currently on the team now. I’ve watched the team a lot, especially during their playoff runs. So I’m familiar with a lot of the guys on the team. I know they’re all winners and they play to win, which is great. I’m looking forward to getting to know the guys and just building new relationships.
When you tweeted about the trade you included the hash tag “Thunder Up.” It seems like every time a player gets traded to Oklahoma City they include that hash tag. How do you guys know about the phrase Thunder up?
You got to do it (laughs). Whenever we do watch ball games it’s something that comes up. It’s just being aware of what’s going on, I guess, throughout the league.
Could you describe your game?
I’m a good shooter. A good all-around basketball player. Whenever I play, I play hard and I play to win. I just try to help the team out as much as possible, whatever that is. I’m just a utility guy. I want to play hard. I want to do the right things. I want to help as much as possible. I would guess that’s what they’re expecting here.
How did that evolve? When you were in high school you were a McDonald’s All-American and talented enough to go to Duke but then gradually became that utility type of player that you just mentioned. How did that evolve over the years?
Well, I’ve always been able to do a lot of stuff on the court whether it’s shooting or playing multiple positions on the defensive end. That’s always kind of been my niche. I played a lot of positions at Duke. And just being out on the court playing hard and playing to win has always been my fallback. That’s always been what I’ve focused on whenever I approach the game and that’s what I continually try to do.
Can you go back to your Duke days? Obviously you guys have a really tight-knit family at Duke. What did those days on campus mean to you and your development as a player and a person?
Well that’s one of the reasons I stayed all four years. I didn’t really feel the need to go. I didn’t really feel like I really wanted to go. So it’s been like that family atmosphere from the beginning for me. I have a lot of friendships and I learned a lot while I was there. That’s the reason I went to Duke in the first place.
How did playing under Coach K help shape you as a player?
Well, coach prepares you as well as possible. He puts in a lot of work. He’s knowledgeable about the game so whenever you go to practice you’re learning something new. And he pushes you to play hard and play up to your potential, and that’s helped me transition into the NBA.
When you were coming out of college you were linked to OKC a lot. What do you remember about that process, and was there ever a moment where you thought you would be drafted by the Thunder?
Yeah, there was a moment when I thought it was going to happen. But when that moment passed I moved on. I worked out for Oklahoma City and felt like I had a decent workout for them. But I’ve always felt that they liked me and they thought I had what it was to be a Thunder basketball player. In the back of my head I always knew that it would be a possibility that I would end up playing here at some time.
What made you feel like that? Why did you think you had that connection with the Thunder?
I think Sam Presti thinks that I just embody what it is to be an Oklahoma City basketball player. Very similar to what it is at Duke. Just focusing on the intangible things but working hard, being focused, being a good teammate, being a quality basketball player and being a quality person.
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