Aldrich Brings Toughness, Dedication to Defensive End

ORLANDO, Fla. – Cole Aldrich has a blue collar background, likes playing defense and has always been physical on the court.

Those are three reasons alone for Thunder fans to like him.

Aldrich also has a heck of a sense of humor.

When asked for the back story on the front tooth that got knocked from his mouth and broke his rut in a game against Kansas State during his sophomore season at Kansas, Aldrich didn’t hesitate to slide out the retainer that has a filler tooth and flash a wide, toothless smile.

While Aldrich can joke about the incident, it symbolizes the toughness and dedication he plays with on the court, something he learned off the court from a father who earns a living as a steel metal worker and a mother who works in embroidery back in Burnsville, Minn.

“Both my parents are hard workers and I just think it correlated to me on the court,” Aldrich said.

On the court, Aldrich earned a reputation on the defensive end, where he was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in his sophomore and junior seasons. He left Kansas as the school’s all-time leader in blocks in a season (125) and posted averages of 11.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks last season.

The No. 11 draft pick of the New Orleans Hornets, Aldrich was dealt along with veteran Morris Peterson to Oklahoma City on draft day but the transaction couldn’t become official until Thursday. In the meantime he said he reached out to Kansas assistant coach Danny Manning, good friend Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves and new teammate and former Jayhawk Nick Collison about what to expect as he begins a new chapter in his life.

Collison, a staunch supporter of his alma mater, has known Aldrich since his freshman year and said he will try to mentor the rookie whenever an opportunity presents itself.

“If I can see something with Cole, particularly because he’s a big and we’d be in a lot of the same situations, I’ll definitely try to help him out,” Collison said.

Aldrich, who sat on the bench in street clothes on Thursday, already has a good feeling about his new team.

“The best thing about the team so far that I’ve noticed is everybody, it’s just a big family,” he said. “You can just tell. Everybody’s just excited.”

Aldrich sounded just as excited to get after it on the defensive end.

“We played a few big guys during (last) season and some guys were like, ‘I don’t want to guard him, Cole, you guard him,’ and I’m like, ‘alright, let’s go!’” Aldrich said. “I just love going against other big guys. You’ve got to go in and get your nose dirty a little bit…lose a tooth.”

Contact Chris Silva

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