Familiar Faces Headed to Tulsa 66ers Training Camp
The Tulsa 66ers’ roster is just about finalized.
The 66ers went into draft night already with nine players on its roster, including three names Thunder fans became familiar with during the NBA preseason.
Guards Jerome Dyson and Demond “Tweety” Carter and forward Elijah Millsap were among the final roster cuts during the Thunder’s training camp, and thanks to a rule change the trio will go into camp with the 66ers as affiliate players under contract.
“I just think that they’re guys that are good compliments to each other and are Thunder-type guys the way that they work,” 66ers Head Coach Nate Tibbetts said. “You never know for sure how rookies are going to do in the NBA or the D-League because it’s an adjustment. But the one reason I know that they’re coming to Tulsa is because of the type of people they are and how hard they work. Those are the kind of guys we want in Tulsa.”
D-League teams can construct a roster prior to the D-League Draft by selecting a total of nine players from three pools: returning players, local tryout players and affiliate players. The setup further aids the synergy the Thunder organization has developed with the 66ers. With the Thunder only one of two NBA teams to own its D-League affiliate, it already has a head-start on the upcoming season thanks in part to the rule change and the fact that Tibbetts and his coaching staff spent the majority of the summer in Oklahoma City.
Because it already has an abundance of returning and affiliate players, the 66ers chose to not select anyone from its local tryout, although one returning player, Marcus Lewis, was originally brought in from last year’s tryout.
Mustafa Shakur, Steven Hill and Zabian Dowdell, all of who were in an NBA training camp; Latavious Williams, whose rights the Thunder acquired the night of the NBA Draft; and veteran Larry Owens are all returning players.
Dyson, Carter and Millsap add depth and versatility to a 66ers roster that returns a majority of the players who helped the franchise reach last year’s D-League Finals. The three rookies are also known for what they bring on the defensive end.
“I feel like I can go out there and guard pretty much anybody from the one to the two, so that’s what I try to bring, just my defensive strength and my quickness and ability to get to the basket and find the open man,” Dyson said during training camp.
At 6-5, Millsap averaged 9.5 rebounds in his junior season at UAB. During training camp he was assigned to guard Kevin Durant in practice and scrimmages. Asked during camp how he planned to stand out, Millsap said, “What got me to this point, just rebounding, finding the ball, trying to get loose balls and guard guys like Kevin Durant, trying to contain him and make him shoot tough shots.”
Carter had his hands full during camp guarding the likes of Russell Westbrook and Eric Maynor. Carter, who played at Baylor, said he liked how close the Thunder was both on and off the court.
“The family atmosphere, the love that you feel when you walk through those doors,” he said. “You don’t find that too many places. I haven’t been to too many places but coming here is a family atmosphere. It’s fun to be around. And they make you to learn, make you want to come here and work hard.”
Tibbetts said he was able to spend time on and off the court with Carter, Dyson and Millsap during Thunder training camp, quality time that will help with their learning curve going forward.
“I think anytime you can build relationships with guys it makes not only you as a coach but as a player it makes you feel a little more comfortable around each other,” Tibbetts said. “It’s going to be an easier transition for them and us.”