With Monday’s news of Jaylen Hoard receiving the Oklahoma City Thunder’s second-and-final two-way contract, fans and media alike have flocked to see tape on the newcomer.
On the surface, Hoard slots right into your typical newcomer category. As a fresh-faced 22-year-old, Hoard has shown glimpses of potential handling the ball at 6-foot-8 while also contributing on the other end defending multiple positions. However, with a lack of consistency, he has been stuck on the cusp of the NBA. Hoard’s measurable and skillset mock your typical try-out candidate, but do not kid yourself here — Jaylen Hoard is not your average “new kid on the block,” in fact, he’s been surrounded by Thunder players his whole professional career.
With both of his parents playing college basketball (his dad even briefly played pro-ball in France,) Hoard has been immersed in the hoop scene ever since he was a child. Growing up in France, his first recollection of watching professional basketball came in grade school, recalling being infatuated with Kobe Bryant’s Lakers facing Carmelo Anthony’s Nuggets in the 2009 Western Conference Finals.
As Hoard’s interest in the game increased — so did his skills. Hoard began his pro career when he was 16, competing in France’s third-tier league for Centre Fédéral teaming with prominent figures in Sekou Doumbouya (Pistons,) Joel Ayayi (Gonzaga,) and Vincent Poirer (Thunder legend.) However, amongst Centre’s stacked roster rested a familiar face in Theo Maledon. “He [Theo] was like 14, I was like 16, I have known him ever since,” added Hoard. The teenage tandem grew a strong bond in that season, as Hoard was a welcomed guest to Maledon’s home. In their regular season campaign, Hoard numbered 8.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists across 24.2 minutes while Maledon posted 1.3/0.7/1.3 splits off a paltry three appearances.
Hoard continued to build up his name dominating the French circuit participating in the U16 and U17 world championships enough to where scouts were eyeballing him as he headed to Wesleyan Christian Academy in North Carolina for high school ball — he dominated. Hoard’s Kodak moment as a senior came against powerhouse Mater Dei, in which he starred in an 82-73 upset scoring 19 points (7-of-10 FG.)
Given Hoard’s 6-foot-8 build and graceful finishing around the basket, Hoard entered the 2018 recruiting class as a five-star prospect, ultimately sticking to what he knew — staying in North Carolina with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Hoard backed up his five-star evaluation in his freshman run with Wake Forest numbering 13.1 points and 7.6 rebounds, but it had not been enough come draft day, going undrafted.
Jaylen Hoard’s original speed bump found himself in the Portland Trail Blazers’ grasp, inking the then 20-year-old to a two-way contract with the team. Portland’s other two-way signee fetched another recognizable name — Moses Brown. Hoard and Brown played almost entirely with the Texas Legends of the G-League (Portland’s affiliate) forming an unbreakable one-two punch off the bench. Hoard averaged 16.2 points and 6.9 rebounds in his stretch on the Legends while Moses Brown fell right behind with 14.4 points and 7.7 rebounds. Hoard not only bonded with Brown in his rookie season but with then Mavericks assignee Isaiah Roby placing nine appearances, Hoard already has his list of recommendations — but the resume didn’t stop there.
With Sam Presti and his alignment on scouts on guard, Oklahoma City snatched Hoard to an exhibit-10 deal in December for their G-League affiliate Blue, adjoining Hoard with Brown yet again, who was on a two-way contract.
Hoard balanced his role at both forward positions patching in any crevices in Grant Gibbs’ gameplan to provide a spark of finishing and defense around the basket. Hoard competed in all fifteen Blue games posting averages of 9.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists for the roster. In Orlando, Hoard spared minutes alongside Moses Brown, Ty Jerome, Aleksej Pokusevski, and for a mere contest — Josh Hall.
After Hoard’s debut 10 points, 6 rebound debut against the Detroit Pistons Monday, it appeared as if the 22-year-old fit in almost seamlessly — because he did. Over his six years playing of professional basketball, Hoard has tried on seven different jerseys, meeting six active Thunder members in the process.
With a deep-rooted connection amongst a wide array of Thunder players, Hoard is not your average “new kid on the block” — he’s right at home.