Published April 14, 2011
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Tulsa Shock can only hope Liz Cambage will be their Kevin Durant.
From opposite sides of the world, the two ended up in similar circumstances.
Like Durant, Cambage was drafted second overall — albeit in the WNBA draft, instead of the NBA version — while still in her late teens and finds herself on a team trying to find its footing after a relocation.
The Shock were the WNBA's worst team last season, winning just six games after a quartet of All-Stars decided not to move with the team from Detroit.
That put them in a position to take Cambage, a 6-foot-8 center from Australia, in the draft Monday.
Two days later, she was taking in her first NBA game and meeting Durant. The NBA scoring champion gave her a draft day shout-out on Twitter to welcome her to the state and promise to come to Tulsa and wear a Shock jersey.
"He's like one of my idols," Cambage said. "My friends back home are freaking out."
Their brief exchange after the game encapsulated where both are at this point in their careers. Durant, now 22, is an established NBA star and headed to the playoffs for the second straight season.
Cambage is adapting to being the new face of a WNBA franchise and just making her presence known in her first visit to Oklahoma.
The two, both represented by agent Aaron Goodwin, met up to exchange signed jerseys after the Thunder's 110-106 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.
"Where do I sign?" she asked him. "Like on the 8 or next to it?"
She ended up signing next to her number on the bright yellow jersey, then thanking Durant profusely for swapping with her.
Cambage could learn a lot more from Durant, who joined the Seattle SuperSonics just as they were getting rid of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis and preparing to move to Oklahoma City. Just 18 years old when he was drafted following his freshman year at Texas, Durant became the league's Rookie of the Year. By his third season, he was leading the NBA in scoring and leading the Thunder into the playoffs.
Cambage already misses her parents' cooking — a more desirable alternative to the fried foods that have upset her stomach in her first few days in America — and knows she'll miss all her friends and basketball teammates from back home. Being 20 hours from home seems a bit menacing to her at age 19.
But she also believes she's "ready to leave the nest and start my own journey."
"I'm happy I'm here," said Cambage, who will fly back home Saturday. "It's a little scary, but I've just got to turn into a big adventurer."
Cambage believes coming to the U.S. was the best move for her career after she averaged 22 points and eight rebounds in the WNBL last season in Australia. After playing her first season in Tulsa, she'll return home to train with the national team and, hopefully, play in the Olympics.
"If I was still in college, I think I'd be crazy right now," Cambage said. "I can't do school and play basketball full-time."
Instead, as one of two Australians drafted this year, she's hoping to make the WNBA popular back home and join three-time MVP Lauren Jackson in a long pipeline of players to the United States.
"We might be taking over," Cambage said. "You never know."