Jun 11, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant lines up for a drill with Thunder guard James Harden (13) and Thunder guard Daequan Cook (14) during practice before game one of the 2012 NBA finals against the Miami Heat at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE
The Oklahoma Sooners Basketball program has seen a significant drop in attendance. That is always a natural occurrence as many fans simply get tired of lack of effort and losing. While Lon Kruger stepped into a desolate area for basketball, he has done a fantastic job to reach out to fans and supporters. Now, the Oklahoma City Thunder have come on to the scene guns blazing. Currently, they are playing host to the NBA Finals but what does that mean for Sooner Basketball?
Recently, Coach Kruger did an interview with ESPN about the Oklahoma City Thunder on this very matter.
"What they've done is raise the bar," he said. "We have to do a better job with in-game entertainment and making a fan-friendly experience. We'll keep working with that ... but it still comes down to winning some ballgames and we'll do that, too." - ESPN's Sooner Nation
One thing he understands is the entertainment aspect. As an Oklahoma City native, I have witnessed first hand the unity that the Thunder have brought to the city and the state. Sports Bars are flooded by fans hoping to catch a game with 500 of their best friends while others made the trek to the Chesapeake Arena. On game days, a sea of blue and orange washes over every part of the city and there place a random "Thunder Up!" will go unheard.
If the Oklahoma Sooners want to retain and win over new fans, part of it is going to come down to entertainment. Now OU will be competing against the likes of pro sports but as mentioned above, it all comes down to winning! If you win, they will come. To some, this will come off as a negative aspect about having the Thunder around.
However, the impact does not stop there. Kruger may have missed a bigger picture in his interview with ESPN's Sooner Nation on how the Thunder impact Oklahoma.
Young talent is lurking out there but it needs to be developed. Without proper coaching a kid remains in a raw form that will hinder them later down the road. Some of the most well known athletes got to where they are because of a single ability...they were coachable.
The OKC Thunder have a hand in fixing that issue as many of the top recruits in the state are from the OKC Metro Area. Let me turn your eye toward Kevin Durant's Camp, a camp designed for kids 7-18 years of age. This mark of 18 does include players on the high school level.
To have a high profile character in the neighborhood is never a bad thing and it certainly plays into the hands of the local universities. Not knowing what level of athletes are going to turn out every year, it literally becomes a scouting ground of sorts. If Durant is able to assemble the top unknown talents playing at local parks spread out across the largest city by land mass into a single confined area, there are sure to be talent scouts knocking at the doors. Instead of scouring the city for talent, it has been delivered in a hand basket to the front door in this form. However, understand that there are different levels of scouts on the trail. Some will look to connect a player with an AAU team while others are making a list of players to watch for the universities.
Money drives a school and sports have a major pull in the issue. As it has been said, the earlier a recruiter can get in with a recruit, the better. Who knows? Maybe the next Michael Jordan shows up in the form of a 12 year old at one of these camps.
While the "raising the bar" on the entertainment value may have been raised, don't count all aspects as a disadvantage. There are benefits to be had, they simply must be shed under the right light.