The OKC Thunder have built one of the most exciting young cores in the NBA. This Oklahoma City Thunder team has the chance to be special. The main components of this Thunder roster have been built through the NBA draft. Those that played college basketball nearly all have a special connection from their playing days before the NBA.
This season, the Oklahoma City Thunder selected Cason Wallace with the tenth overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft and Keyontae Johnson with the 50th overall pick. Those two wildcats matched up with each other in a thrilling NCAA tournament game with Sam Presti in attendance! However, their unique college connections with this roster run deeper than just that game.
OKC Thunder college connections run deep on their 2023-24 roster.
Cason Wallace sported the number 22 at the University of Kentucky, just as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander did back in the 2017-18 college basketball season. For Keyontae Johnson, his college career featured many layers, including a scary incident at the University of Florida. At the same time, he was teammates with the OKC Thunder’s first-round pick back in 2021, Tre Mann.
You can even go back to the 2022 NBA Draft, where the OKC Thunder selected Chet Holmgren, Ousmane Dieng, Jalen Williams, and Jaylin Williams. Three of the four played college basketball, and all three were intertwined together.
Being in the same conference, Jalen Williams’ Santa Clara squad battled and lost to Chet Holmgren’s Gonzaga team twice during the 2021-22 season. Chet Holmgren and the Bulldogs went on to battle Jaylin Williams and the Arkansas Razorbacks in the NCAA Tournament. Jaylin Williams won that battle against Holmgren to keep on dancing.
Jaylin Williams’s connection with Isaiah Joe runs even deeper than just a college matchup. The two are from the same High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and both played for the Razorbacks though missing each other by a year in Fayetteville.
From top to bottom, the OKC Thunder preach about how connected they feel, calling this a family environment within the organization. While being close in age and career length helps, these special connections are another interesting bond between a strong Thunder team.