With familiar faces around him, Maynor adjusting on, off court

Eric Maynor has been with the Thunder for not even a week, but the rookie point guard is already starting to feel at home.

Maynor already knew D.J. White and Kyle Weaver from playing on the same team for the Pan American Games in 2007. He also had crossed paths with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

Maynor ended up spending Christmas Day at Harden’s house, where the two played video games all day.

And in his first game at the Ford Center on Saturday, Maynor had a familiar face sitting courtside in Oklahoma men’s basketball coach Jeff Capel, who recruited Maynor when he coached at VCU.

Couple that with the way the Thunder organization welcomed Maynor from the moment he stepped off the plane for his physical, and he’s adjusting quite well.

“I love it,” Maynor said. “The people here are unbelievable in how they take care of their players and the way they care about you not just as basketball players but as people. I think that’s a big plus.”

Maynor grew up in Raeford, N.C., just outside Fayetteville. He was always around basketball, it seemed. His father, George Maynor, played at East Carolina and was drafted by the Chicago Bulls.

The relationship between Capel and the Maynors dates back to Jeff’s father, Jeff Capel, Sr., who coached against George Maynor during his college basketball career. Jeff Capel, Sr., also coached Eric’s high school coach.

Eric Maynor committed to Capel at VCU after his junior year of high school.

“He could do everything back then when we recruited him except for shoot,” Capel said after Saturday’s Thunder-Charlotte game. “He had really good size for the position, had a great feel, was shifty, everything at a very high level except for shoot. That was really the only reason we were able to get him, was because he couldn’t shoot. But I knew that he worked and he had a passion for getting better…I knew he’d put in the work to be a better shooter. He had a good freshman year for us at VCU and after I left, under Anthony Grant, he really flourished.”

Maynor left VCU with a degree in sports management and as the school’s all-time leader in points and assists.

Thunder head coach Scott Brooks knew about Maynor before the Thunder acquired him and has watched some of his clips with the Jazz once Maynor was traded to Oklahoma City.

Brooks, a journeyman point guard who played for 10 NBA teams, could relate to what Maynor just went through.

“Some guys get the business early on,” Brooks said. “I’ve always looked at it that you’re playing as hard as you can for whoever you’re playing for. There’s always one team that really wants you. Sometimes the team trades you away, circumstances allow that. I’ve always felt that when I was traded, some team wanted me really bad and I was excited to be there.”

Brooks said that Maynor will be learning the team’s philosophy and style of play for weeks to come. Brooks also spoke about the ups and downs Maynor will continue to experience as a rookie, similar to those that Russell Westbrook went through last year.

“It’s still going to take some time because as a point guard you have to know the plays and do it instinctively and also if some guys aren’t in the right spot you have to guide them,” Brooks said.

For Maynor, it’s all about taking the proper steps. Saturday was another one in the right direction, when he scored seven points in a 3:14 stretch of the second quarter.

“My comfort level is there,” Maynor said. “The guys feel like they believe in me and I believe in them. It’s only going to get better, that’s what I think.”

Capel thinks the Thunder is getting a quality player and person in Maynor.

“I’m excited for him,” Capel said. “I think this is a great franchise for him with all the young talent in Oklahoma City and just with the makeup of the franchise with what they’re trying to do, what they’re trying to do, obviously win with big-time talent but with really character guys. He fits what they’re doing and so I’m excited for him and I’m excited for the Thunder because they’re getting a really, really good point guard. I think him being here with Russell is really going to help him, also being with Mo Cheeks and Scott Brooks, two former point guards.”

Contact Chris Silva