Kansas Alums To Meet In NBA Preseason Game In Tulsa

Aug. 6, 2009

TULSA, Okla. – The Oklahoma City Thunder will host the Miami Heat in a pre-season game on Oct. 14 at the BOK Center in Tulsa. The three-and-a-half hour drive from Lawrence to Tulsa gives Kansas fans a chance to see former Jayhawks Nick Collison and Mario Chalmers. Collison is in his sixth season with the Thunder organization after being drafted 12th in the 2003 NBA Draft, and Chalmers begins his second season in the NBA after being drafted 34th overall in the 2008 Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“We are fortunate at Kansas to have great ambassadors like Nick and Mario and many other Jayhawks in the NBA,” said Kansas coach Bill Self. “I truly enjoyed my years in Tulsa. It’s a great city and I know they will come out to see these guys play and support these NBA teams.”

Self’s Oklahoma roots run deep. He was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma and spent four years as the head coach at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa from 1993-97 before taking over the head coaching job at the University of Tulsa from 1997-2000. He played at Oklahoma State University from 1982-85.

Collison returns to Tulsa for the first time since Dec. 11, 2002 when his Jayhawks team defeated the University of Tulsa 89-80 at the Reynolds Center on the Tulsa campus. The Jayhawks finished that season with a 30-8 record and eventually lost in the national championship game vs. Syracuse. On that December night in Tulsa, Collison scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds on 8-of-14 shooting from the field.

The Iowa Falls, Iowa native continues his strong play in the NBA and has put impressive numbers together in all five of his seasons. Last year the 6-10 center posted 22 double-doubles and averaged 8.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. His best statistical season came in 2007-08 when he averaged 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

“I’m looking forward to training camp and getting the season started,” Collison said. “I remember playing in Tulsa in college and it was a loud, energetic crowd. I’m glad we’re playing a pre-season game up there to give Thunder fans from all over the area a chance to see us play.”

Chalmers was traded to the Miami Heat following the draft, and the 6-1 guard played in all 82 regular-season games for the Heat last season. He also played in all seven playoff games as the Heat lost in the opening round to the Atlanta Hawks. His rookie season in the NBA was a solid one as he averaged 10.0 points and 4.9 assists per game. He scored in double figures 43 times last season, including a career-high 23 points on two separate occasions – vs. Houston on Nov. 24 and again vs. Utah on March 14. The game against Utah resulted in a 140-129 victory, but it came after three overtimes. It was also game No. 65 for the Heat – a tough task for any rookie in the NBA.

“I’m dead tired. I have to get some rest tonight and be ready for tomorrow. We play tomorrow afternoon, and we have to keep fighting,” Chalmers said following the three overtimes.

The second season in the NBA is usually much less demanding on players because they’re used to the difficult NBA grind, but that normalcy also comes with a lot of hard work.

“I want to make a home in Miami, and to do that I have to get better each year. That’s what I’m trying to do – staying in the gym and trying to get better,” he said. “I’ve been spending most of the summer here in Miami. All I’m doing is hitting the gym and working on my game. “

Tickets are available to the Heat vs. Thunder game in Tulsa beginning Aug. 10. Please visit THUNDER.NBA.COM or bokcenter.com for more information or to purchase tickets.