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News » Former Hoosiers teammates together again in NBA


Former Hoosiers teammates together again in NBA


Former Hoosiers teammates together again in NBA
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - When D.J. White heard former college teammate Robert Vaden's name in the NBA draft, he sent a text message saying "Congratulations!"

When Vaden got traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder minutes later, he had some revising to do.

"Welcome to the family" was the new message.

The duo, who shared a room at Indiana during the Hoosiers' run to the NCAA tournament three years ago, will be reunited in the NBA.

"It felt good just to know somebody already there - somebody who can look out for you, show you the ins and outs of town, the ups and downs," said Vaden, a second-round pick at No. 54 overall. "We helped each other out in college, so I don't really see it being no different here in Oklahoma City."

Back when White and Vaden were rooming together during their freshman and sophomore years with the Hoosiers, they'd chat about the future and envision themselves playing in the NBA. White was the Big Ten freshman of the year before breaking his left foot and missing most of the following season, while Vaden started all 60 games and averaged 11.9 points.

"We always thought we would play against each other, never with each other," White said. "It's here now, so things work out in weird ways. But I'm happy it did."

Although they intersected along the way, White and Vaden took different paths to the pros.

White was raised in Alabama before heading north for his college career. He stuck with the Hoosiers for all four years of college and was the Big Ten player of the year as a senior.

Meanwhile, Indiana's program fell into scandal as Kelvin Sampson got into the same sort of trouble with the NCAA that he'd had at Oklahoma over phone calls to recruits.

Vaden grew up in Indiana and stayed at home with the Hoosiers before transferring to Alabama-Birmingham to follow Mike Davis when he resigned after the 2005-06 season - opening the door for Sampson's hiring.

"It was a different experience going into it than I thought it was going to be. I played at Indiana for two years. That was pretty much like my dream school," Vaden said.

He had to sit out a year under NCAA transfer rules and then played in relative obscurity at UAB. The Blazers made the second of back-to-back NIT appearances last season despite being left with only six scholarship players at midseason.

Vaden stayed focused on getting better.

"I think that's the reason - what got me here today, just being able to get in the gym all the time and work hard," Vaden said. "That's what I do, so I'm going to continue to do that."

That part of Vaden's approach apparently caught the attention of Thunder general manager Sam Presti enough that he sent cash to the Charlotte Bobcats for his draft rights.

"Robert Vaden is a worker. Robert Vaden is a guy that spends a lot of time in the gym," Presti said. "We think he's a guy that's about winning, and we like his dedication to shooting the ball."

Left without as many offensive options around him, Vaden's scoring average dropped from 21.1 to 17.6 points last season and his 3-point shooting percentage fell to 35 percent, three points lower than it was over the course of his four years in college.

If he can regain his stroke, he could be a boon for a team that ranked 28th out of 30 NBA teams last season by shooting 34.6 percent from 3-point range.

"I feel like I can score from just about anywhere on the floor. I feel like I have unlimited range," Vaden said. "I know a lot of people may disagree, but I feel like I'm a very confident when I'm on the offensive end, so hopefully I can bring that to the table."

Vaden said he didn't know what his role would be with the Thunder but "if I didn't fit in, they wouldn't have picked me."

Oklahoma City has 2008 Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant at small forward, while starting shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha has competition with No. 3 overall pick James Harden from Arizona State.

"It's a young, up-and-coming team," Vaden said. "I feel like we've got a chance to win a lot of games here with the nucleus that they already have."

White will also practically be a rookie next season. He missed all but the final seven games of last season after having a benign growth removed from his jaw, but has had all restrictions removed on what he can eat and how much he can lift.

"I'm pretty much feeling like my old self," White said. "I had the chance to do a lot of things I haven't done in the past couple months."


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: June 30, 2009

 

 
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