“He’s just so hungry to get better,” said Zormelo, who visits Oklahoma City every few weeks and stays at Durant’s home. “He can do almost anything you can possibly do on the court, and he wants to do all those things and he wants to perfect them.”
Zormelo is only the latest to discover Durant’s drive. At Seat Pleasant, he had to be dragged off the court. Throughout high school, he never played basketball; he always practiced.
“The success he’s having right now — it’s because he’s still working like we were high school kids,” said New Orleans guard Greivis Vasquez, Durant’s teammate at Montrose Christian.
Durant transferred to Montrose for his senior season, taking an hour-long train each morning to Rockville. Beginning at 7:30, he and Vasquez would squeeze in a 45-minute workout before the first bell rang. Following afternoon practice, they’d often stay an extra 45 minutes, too.
“He could’ve played for us on Friday night and played for the Wizards on Sunday,” said Stu Vetter, the Montrose Christian coach. “And he was only 17 at the time. He was that talented.”
A new NBA rule forbade Durant from jumping straight to the NBA, and he spent one season at the University of Texas before the Seattle SuperSonics made him the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft. The franchise moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.
“He’s at the top and he hasn’t changed anything, his character, what type of person he is,” Vasquez said. “Sometimes you let that go to your head. But he knows his roots, where he came from. It’s not easy being where he’s at right now. Being one of the best, people expecting everything of you, but he’s still doing it all the right way.”
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On the day LeBron James announced his intent to join the Miami Heat on national television, Durant opted for a more low-key approach to share his future plans. He tweeted the news that he’d agreed to a contract extension to remain with the Thunder through 2016.
So why Oklahoma? With other players clamoring to jump to big markets, what does an NBA player even do in Oklahoma City?
“We chill,” Durant said. “Play basketball, watch basketball, that sort of thing.”
“Everything’s pretty much closed after 10 o’clock here,” Thunder teammate Royal Ivey said. Sundays are particularly dead, but they’ll usually gather at the Cheesecake Factory or eat at a player’s home. A Dave & Buster’s opened this month, and players say that might be a good place to hang.