Ajay Mitchell (#13, left) | Credit: Tre Penn

UCSB’s Ajay Mitchell is slated to join one of pro basketball’s best young teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder, after being taken Thursday with the 38th pick of the NBA Draft.

“Seeing it happen is crazy for me, as a kid from Belgium,” Mitchell said at a draft party in Santa Barbara attended by his Gaucho coach, Joe Pasternack, his mother, and sister.

Mitchell, a 6’3″ guard, garnered All–Big West honors all three years at UCSB, including Player of the Year in 2022-23. Despite being hampered somewhat by injuries, he averaged 20 points and four assists per game in the 2023-24 season, and a strong showing at the NBA Combine at Chicago improved his prospects in this year’s draft.

Oklahoma City fashioned the best record in the Western Conference during the 2023-24 NBA season. The Thunder acquired the 38th pick, the eighth of the second round, through a deal with the New York Knicks.

“I heard they were interested in me, but you never know,” Mitchell said. “I’m excited to be part of that organization.”

He is 14th Gaucho to be chosen in the NBA Draft and the first since Orlando Johnson in 2012.

“To see a player’s dream come true is the best thing you can ask as a coach,” Pasternack said. “It’s an incredible moment. Ajay has been such a loyal young man. For three years, he honored the process.”

After he was recruited by UCSB, Mitchell said he never considered playing anywhere else. “Santa Barbara really feels like home for me,” he said.

Now he’ll find a new in-season home in Oklahoma.

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