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The Rookie | By Nathan Walls


It would be considered an eventful year for the most seasoned of players. But, in this, his rookie season in the NBA, Westover High school graduate Eric Maynor is already making a name for himself. His team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, advanced to the playoffs for the first time as the youngest team in the league, going up against the Los Angeles Lakers and one of the NBA’s marquee players, Kobe Bryant. He began his professional basketball career with the Utah Jazz, subbing in for regular starter and NBA All-Star Deron Williams. Two days before Christmas, the Jazz traded him to Oklahoma City. Maynor didn’t miss a beat; the Thunder staff sent him an electronic copy of the playbook, which he read on the plane from Salt Lake City to Phoenix, where his new team took on the Phoenix Suns. This season, he averaged more than 15 minutes a game, contributing an average of 4.7 points, 3.3 assists and 1.6 rebounds per outing. But let’s rewind the highlight reel. Maynor’s success comes as no surprise to those who know him best back in Fayetteville. In 2005, Maynor guided his Westover team to a state title. Two years later, the 6-foot-3-inch guard took his college team at Virginia Commonwealth University to the NCAA tournament where he created a memorable March Madness moment by sinking the winning shot at the buzzer against Duke University. Maynor became Commonwealth’s all-time career leader in scoring and assists, averaging 22.4 points, 6.2 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game for his senior year, propelling his squad to another NCAA Tournament. And then, his name was called as the 20th pick in last year’s NBA draft. “That was the best night of my life,” Maynor said. “Basketball has been a dream of mine so it was just a great feeling.” For his father, George Maynor, who was cut during a tryout with the Chicago Bulls in 1980, watching his son realize his NBA goals is just as special. “It’s been a great experience,” the elder Maynor said. “You have to go by the chain of command, from high school to playing AAU to college. Then from college, you’re blessed if you get drafted. And to land on a team in the NBA has been a wonderful time for him.” And busy. “It was kind of weird being traded,” Eric Maynor said, “but once they told me where I was going, I was very happy.” In Oklahoma City, Maynor has been a solid backup to talented second year man Russell Westbrook. Maynor’s skills have been refined to the point that he drained a turnaround jumpshot over NBA superstar Lebron James in a regular season game, a shot both Maynor men downplay. Eric Maynor said his father and brother, Tony Crawford, provide moral support. “They do a great job of keeping me level headed,” he said. “They criticize me if I do something wrong but also offer support if I’m struggling. At the same time, if I’m playing well, they let me know that, too.” And they aren’t the only ones. Eric has remained close with his Fayetteville Warriors AAU coach, Shaune Griffin, who coached Maynor during his sophomore and junior years in high school. “I talk to him all the time,” Maynor said. “He played a big part in my development and one thing that he really taught me was to keep a positive attitude. That’s something that I try and maintain every day.” Griffin said he immediately noticed Maynor’s talent and personality, even as a teenager. “Being well-grounded, being a spiritual young man and understanding that hard work does pay dividends” have paid off for Maynor, Griffin said. “Friday nights when most young kids were hitting the clubs, Eric would spend a lot of time in the gym practicing and going to tournaments.” Former Westover coach Phil Hart Jr. said Maynor was a talented player who never liked to lose. “I think that was one of the things that separated him from a lot of other kids,” Hart said. “He was always willing to do whatever it took to win the game.” He was also coached by Fayetteville native Jeff Capel who saw potential in Maynor when universities in his own state overlooked him. Capel recruited Maynor to Virginia Commonwealth and coached Maynor his freshman season. From the dirt courts of his childhood to the NBA, look how far he’s come now.