After an outstanding three-year career at Kansas, which included a 2008 NCAA Championship and three Big 12 titles during his tenure, Cole Aldrich was a Lottery pick this June. First selected by the Hornets before being trading to the Thunder on Draft Night, the Bloomington, Minn. native gladly returned to the Midwest. So with everyone’s expectations for the Thunder going through the roof this season, we decided there was no one better to turn to for the inside scoop on life in OKC. In his initial entry, Cole talks about rookie hazing, facing his childhood idol and the best spot to get spicy California rolls in town.
When David Stern called my name it was a bit of a relief. To work so long, and it’s stressful through the process to worry about it and all. After that moment, all that stress is taken off of you. I thought it was going to be New Orleans, but I ended up in Oklahoma City and I was excited about it.
I grew up in the Midwest all my life â€“ Minnesota, then Kansas and now Oklahoma City â€“ so it’s not really a big change for me culturally or demographically. I really like the city, and the people around the city are really nice and strangely positive.
People always wonder what we do in the city when we’re not playing ball. I went golfing yesterday for the first time here at a place called Rose Creek. I finally got some new clubs. It’s a nice course, kind of in a gated community. Depending on how you like the temperature, you can play golf for a few more weeks here. As for food, lately I’ve been kind of hooked on spicy California rolls at my spot Kabuki. It’s not too far from the house. Basically it’s a sushi bar and hibachi grill, but I usually go in for the sushi.
We really didn’t have any rookie hazing. With Kevin [Durant] and Russell [Westbrook] and few older vets, they haven’t made me do anything crazy. I pretty much throw on the showers after practice, give them their towels. Minor things. They’re mostly lenient. I do try and do things out of my way though to please them and give them that respect.
Probably the craziest thing I had to do was during training camp. It was Kevin’s birthday, and I had one of our team managers go and get party hats and kazoos and we all sang him happy birthday with kazoos.
As you can see, the locker room is really relaxed and chill. Everybody just has a fun time. We have a real young team and some characters that like to shine once in a while. Serge Ibaka is always saying something funny, and Daequan Cook is really funny too. But we’re really just a low-key team that likes to go play basketball. We’re all gym rats.
Kevin’s always in the gym. I usually get to practice early, about two hours before it starts. Russell gets there about an hour-and-a-half before, and he usually gets on the court for 30-45 minutes to get shots up before and after practice.
Usually if I get there early, I get some breakfast in me, hang in the locker room, maybe get a 25-minute workout in. I’ll work on post moves and whatnot before practice. Maybe get a lift in. Sometimes I’ll get a little treatment and then hang out until practice. They always try and joke with me and say, “It’s only practice,” when I wear jeans and a shirt to practice. I’m definitely the best-dressed by far.
There’s a lot of differences between college and the NBA, but one of the main ones is that while I liked school, that fact that we have a lot of free time is really nice. And I mean lots of free time. The team is very tight, so we do everything together. It doesn’t matter what city we’re in, we’ll go to the movies, go out to dinner, go out to the mall. We’ll pretty much do anything. We’re all just normal, kind of fun guys who just happen to be basketball players.
I work a lot with our big man coach Mark Bryant, and will talk with [Nick] Collison and Nenad [Krstic] a bunch. Nick has been in the league for seven years now, so I’m always learning all the different things that he can teach me. It definitely helps that he went to Kansas too. Nick has some of the same history as me â€“ he’s from Iowa, then Kansas and was in Seattle for a few years before landing back in the Midwest. I always find myself listening to him and picking his brain every day. That’s my goal every day at practice, to learn something new from Nick. And yes, the rumors are true: He is the sweatiest guy in the NBA. He needs a sweat catcher every time he runs up and down the court.
People always ask me who the best athlete is on the team, and they’re always surprised when I say Jeff Green. I don’t think people realize how strong he is, and he has huge hands that engulf the ball. He can do whatever he wants when he gets out in the open court. He runs like a deer in the forest. Kevin and Russell too. With those three, I wish I had a quarter of their athleticism.
We’ve played a lot of good teams so far this season like the Bulls, and lost a close one to the Celtics on Sunday. We just pretty much take it game by game and try to get better every game. We played Utah on my birthday, and I know Al Jefferson a little bit, but I’d never played against him. The one thing that surprised me is that he has great footwork. For an undersized big, his footwork is really good.
But if there’s one player that when you walk out on the court and they kind of have that awe around them, it’s KG. Growing up in Minnesota being a KG fan, it was kind of crazy having to guard KG and then have all my buddies text me after the game. I told them, “That’s my job now!” I gotta guard guys now that some of my buddies idolize. For me, it’s just another day at work.
Kansas starts their season this Friday, and we’re gonna have another good year. Nick and I always talk to KD and Royal Ivey from Texas about who’s going to win the Big 12 this year. All we have to say is that we’ve got six straight titles.
Speaking of Kansas, I gotta give a shout out to my fellow rookies Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry. I talk to Xavier more than Sherron, but they’re both doing good. Xavier, being so young, he has to continue to work. He’s on a good team in Memphis with an older teammate I played with my freshman year in Darrell Arthur. Sherron played four years, so he’s almost a small vet in some ways.
Until next time…
Follow Cole on Twitter at @colea45.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.