Displayed with permission from The Washington Times
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) – Aaron McGhee hadn’t seen Lloyd Noble Center until this month since he cleaned out his locker in the spring of 2002. The arena hasn’t changed much, but the area around it has transformed in the 12 and a half years since.
“Campus, everything around it, even just coming here from Oklahoma City, to see the development all around,” McGhee told The Norman Transcript. “It’s a lot different around here.”
Oklahoma opens its arms to all former players when it holds the Legends Alumni Weekend. McGhee was one of the featured honorees as the University of Oklahoma celebrated all 1,000-point scorers in the program’s history.
McGhee wished he’d come back sooner. His home is in Frisco, Texas. It’s only a three-hour drive. But most of the time since McGhee left school has been spent, literally, a world way.
Everyone who dreams of playing professional basketball hopes to do so in the NBA. However, only a select few get to live it.
Most do what McGhee’s done. Apply for a passport, pack the bags and head overseas.
He’s made a living playing professional basketball for 12 years. It’s taken him to Russia, Spain, South Korea, Puerto Rico, China, Philippines, Israel and Ukraine.
“I never would’ve thought I would’ve seen half the things I’ve seen traveling the world,” McGhee said. “It’s been amazing. I’ve been truly blessed.”
It took a while for the appreciative feelings to set in.
McGhee figured he was destined for a career in the NBA. That thought was validated when a couple months after aiding the Sooners’ Final Four run, he was named MVP of the 2002 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. At the time, it was the NBA’s combine.
But the 6-foot-7 forward never found his way onto a NBA roster. Some bitterness came with the slight.
“It bothered me for a while,” McGhee said. “Not getting a fair crack – I felt – to get into the NBA, yeah, it bothered me a little bit. But I learned to let it go.”
He hasn’t signed with a team for this coming season. At 35 years old, the option to retire looms. It was obvious at an alumni game this month at Lloyd Noble Center that talent is still there.
McGhee buried 15 footers at the same rate he did in his final University of Oklahoma game in 2002.
It’s easy to tell at the alumni game which players are still active and which ones are making a living doing something else.
Former University of Oklahoma players and 1,000-point scorers Tony Crocker and Cade Davis have followed McGhee’s path.
Both were headed out of Norman this month to begin voyages to faraway lands. Crocker is off to Israel. Davis is bound for Greece to play for the same team Crocker was with last year.
“Yeah, Cade asked me all about the team and money and the league,” Crocker said. “He’ll have fun. He’ll like it. It’s in a good part of Athens. He’ll love it.”
They’re both getting the same experience as McGhee. Getting paid to play the game they love and seeing the world.
It requires patience and an adventurous spirit.
“It’s a different road because you do bounce around from place to place. You never know how the team will fare and where you’ll wind up the next season,” Davis said. “It’s a waiting game. You have to wait for the next opportunity to present itself.”
Those opportunities have limited their chances to return to Norman. But the alumni weekend is always going to be there when the basketball adventures end.