The Oklahoma City Thunder wrapped up the 2023 NBA Draft with two prospects after back-to-back drafts of four players in each. This haul felt light. However, the quality of prospects remained the same. The OKC Thunder captured another top-ten pick and seemed to have grabbed a steal in the second round. This two-player draft class for the OKC Thunder can be tied together by one March Madness game.
On March 19th, the upstart Kansas State Wildcats faced off with the blue-blooded Kentucky Wildcats in the second round of the March Madness tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina. In attendance: Kansas State forward Keyontae Johnson, Kentucky guard Cason Wallace, and Thunder General Manager Sam Presti. In a matter of months, that trio would become colleagues.
The OKC Thunder 2023 NBA Draft class is tied together by one particular March Madness game.
The Keyontae Johnson’s Kansas State Wildcats went on a phenomenal March Madness run along the way, knocking off Cason Wallace’s Kentucky Wildcats, 75-69. Johnson and Wallace recounted that match-up at Saturday’s Rookie introductory press conference. The duo informed those of us in the media that one another was atop the scouting report for each team.
Keyontae Johnson finished with 13 points, four rebounds, and three assists to help led Kansas State to a win. Cason Wallace dropped 21 points, hauled in nine rebounds, and dished out four assists for his Wildcats. As the two recalled the game, Thunder General Manager jumped in to exclaim he, too, was in attendance that night. While he made sure to say it was not exactly the tipping point for drafting the pair, it was good to see them compete. Presti recalls it being a great game from the opening tip.
As the Purple Wildcats beat the Blue Wildcats, the 50th overall pick hit the game-clinching shot in this March Madness affair. This is the second time in as many draft’s that March Madness rivals turned teammates in a matter of months. Jaylin Williams’ Arkansas Razorbacks dethroned Chet Holmgren’s Gonzaga Bulldogs a year ago in the big dance before the two joined forces in Bricktown.
While Keyontae Johnson’s team finished with the win, Cason Wallace was fantastic, finishing through contact, leading the offense, providing his usual lockdown defense, and oozing intensity for 40 minutes. This game exemplified why each prospect eventually became members of the Thunder.
The OKC Thunder, rightfully so, will maintain that this single game did not totally impact their final decision-making; it is a fun set of circumstances to think about, especially with Presti in attendance.