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Liggins Overcoming Adversity

Shane Bevel/NBAE/Getty Images

DeAndre Liggins had a huge game against Portland on Sunday. It comes to a bit of a surprise for any Thunder fan that he set a career high in points, rebounds, assists and minutes. He was a key contributor to victory and while a lot are calling it “Ligginsanity” or “getting liggins with it,” Oklahoma City can appreciate a player who works hard for his playing time. It hasn’t always been easy for Liggins.

Liggins is from the streets of Chicago. He was a heralded high school recruit that signed with Kentucky in 2008. He was considered the cherry on top of a great recruiting class for former Kentucky head coach, Billy Gillespie. However, He struggled finding his role in the Kentucky offense, often clashing with Gillespie. Liggins even refused to enter a game at Kentucky as a reserve.

A lot of his problems at Kentucky can be traced back to his childhood. When Liggins was 14, his older brother, Maurice, was a local hoop star, and a budding high school prospect. He was going to make it big time. DeAndre also looked up to Maurice quite a bit. When Maurice was 18 years old. Maurice was fresh off a 38-point game, top of the world, was tragically murdered outside of his high school.

“[Maurice] makes me work harder. If not for him, I couldn’t be here. I guess everything happens for a reason,” Liggins said.

Liggins will tell you that it was Maurice who was destined to become a star. DeAndre was content to play pickup games in the street until that fateful day.

“He was the guy; I was just a regular kid,” Liggins said. “I didn’t know how good I was. I wasn’t playing any kind of structured basketball. I was playing for fun. …[Maurice] was playing to go somewhere.

“When he passed, I had to follow his dreams.”

What makes it worse, just a few months before that, DeAndre lost his father due to complications of diabetes. Losing the two male figures in a person’s life is tough to overcome. Hell, Liggins dealt with more tragedy than most deal with in a lifetime. He did it within months.

Liggins has a tattoo of Maurice’s face on his right shoulder.

That could explains a lot of his attitude when he arrived Kentucky. It continued when new coach, John Callipari, arrived at Kentucky, Liggins and Callipari didn’t exactly see eye to eye. Liggins was suspended nine games for violating a team rule.

DeAndre was in the dog house for a lot of the season, but he climbed out and became a defensive workhorse. He became one of the premier defenders in the Southeastern Conference. He hit a clutch 3-pointer against North Carolina to send Kentucky to the Final Four for the first time since 1998.

Liggins was drafted with the 53rd pick by the Orlando Magic in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. He didn’t play often, just 17 games, while in Orlando. He knew his time to get action would be the following season in Orlando.

“I’ve struggled all my life,” he said. “You just have to overcome things.”

The struggle didn’t stop there. Orlando chose not to re-sign Liggins. Even though he played for Orlando’s Summer League team, Liggins was not picked up by the Magic. That’s where the Thunder came in.

Liggins was a camp invitee, a guy just given a chance to secure one spot left on the roster. The fight was between three players, and some how, Liggins came through. In every preseason game his minutes increased, and his defensive intensity stepped up. He was becoming a fan favorite to make the roster. On October 27th, 2012 the Thunder gave Liggins the final roster spot.

He made the best of his first ever NBA start by setting a lot of career highs and turning a lot of heads. Liggins didn’t have the benefit of a full training camp last season due to the lock out. However, he received that benefit this season, and it’s paying off.  Liggins is just growing as a player, and it’s just seen so easily.

While it’s not easy to say whether or not Liggins will make the roster after this year. He’s definitely using his playing time to the maximized effort. He’s becoming a fan favorite and if he keeps this up, he’ll steal some quality minutes from players. Probably players like Thabo Sefolosha. This will be an interesting thing to keep an eye on the rest of the season.


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