McGary is Added Strength, Toughness for Thunder

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer |

There are certain things that statistics don’t capture, and there are even things that game film can’t completely show to NBA scouts and evaluators.

During his two seasons at the University of Michigan, new Thunder big man Mitch McGary saw highs and lows, but what stood out to Thunder General Manager Sam Presti was the way that he handled both the success and the adversity.

In his first season in Ann Arbor, the 6-foot-10, 255-pound power forward and center played in 39 games and helped lead the Wolverines to the NCAA Championship Game. In his second season, a back injury limited McGary to just eight games, but Presti and the Thunder staff watched the way McGary stayed extremely engaged with teammates, coaches and the game in general.

The Thunder knows what McGary is capable of on the court, but what it saw during the year when he was off the court because of injury was confirmation that he was the type of player and person that could fit into the culture.

“You can learn a lot about people in those situations,” Presti explained. “When we go, we watch plays but we also watch what is happening around the game.”

“Those are the types of people we want to continue to layer into our program and into our organization,” Presti said. “When we see that, we value it highly, maybe more highly than other people, but we like to think that’s a competitive advantage for us.”

During his two year career, McGary averaged 7.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest in just 20.6 minutes per game, while shooting 58.8 percent from the field. During his freshman year, he put together back-to-back monster games in the NCAA tournament, compiling 21 points and 14 rebounds in the second round against Virgina Commonwealth and 25 points and 114 rebounds against Kansas in the Sweet 16.

McGary showed his physicality, strength and understanding of the game during his time at Michigan, and those will be the attributes that he’ll be called upon to display in the NBA. His rebounding, defense and ability to help facilitate as a screener and passer in of the pick-and-roll and in the high post will all be aspects that he hopes translate to the next level.

“I’d like to bring a lot of toughness,” McGary said. “I know this team is tough, but everybody needs an extra edge. I’d definitely like to bring a lot more energy, on and off the court. Being on the bench, I’m up on my feet on almost every possession. Whatever it takes for the team to win, I’ll try to bring to the table.”

With a stable of bigs like Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Steven Adams, McGary joins a savvy group that has a variety of different skills. While he is still not completely back to 100 percent in rehabbing his back injury, McGary will get right to work with his new coaches and trainers at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center this week.

It remains to be seen whether he will participate in any Summer League games starting on Saturday in Orlando, but either way, he’ll get a baseline reading from the coaches on where he is as a player and where they hope for him to be as he starts his development process this summer. One thing the Thunder knows for certain is the type of attitude they will be getting from McGary each time he hits the floor, weight room or film room. As a result of the time he spent on and off the court at Michigan, the Thunder believes McGary will be a gritty, hard-working, industrious big man that can fit strategically into the organization’s plans moving forward.

“Mitch is a guy we’ve followed for quite some time,” Presti said. “He brings tremendous energy and passion. He plays with a great basketball IQ. He brings a toughness that we value.”

“I’m a big, physical guy,” McGary said. “It’s just being a blue collar worker. Right now, I’m not at full strength, but when I get back to where I want to be, I think I can definitely have an impact on the game.”