Wyoming’s Hunter Maldonado Signs Free-Agent Deal With Oklahoma City
LARAMIE -- All Hunter Maldonado wanted was a chance.
Oklahoma City provided just that, signing the Wyoming guard to a free-agent deal ahead of next month's NBA Summer League.
Maldonado, who is the school and Mountain West's all-time assists leader with 630, reported to the Thunder facility on Monday after spending six seasons in Laramie. The 6-foot-7 Colorado Springs product averaged 13.7 points per game during his tenure on the high plains and capped his career with 2,158 points.
The 24-year-old is one of just five players in UW history to net more than 2,000 points, joining Fennis Dembo, Brandon Ewing, Flynn Robinson and former Cowboy teammate Justin James.
In fact, Maldonado is the only player in program history with more than 2,000 points, 800 rebounds and 600 helpers.
Maldonado averaged 18.5 points per game to go along with a career-high 6.3 helpers during the 2021-22 season. Wyoming finished the campaign 25-9 overall and punched its ticket to the First Four of the NCAA Tournament. Following the season, Maldonado was named First Team All-Mountain West for the only time in his career.
Maldonado tested the NBA waters after his senior season before ultimately deciding to return to Laramie and take advantage of the extra eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During his final outing in a UW uniform, a career-high 36-point performance in a loss to New Mexico in last March's Mountain West Tournament, Maldonado talked about his legacy. So did acting head coach Sundance Wicks.
"The greatest compliment, I believe, that you can give any human being is to be consistent and accountable everyday. To show up the same way, every single day," a teary-eyed Wicks said postgame, looking over at Maldonado several times during his opening statement. "... He shows up every single day and he's the same person. To me, that's what the story is about."
Opposing bench boss Richard Pitino joked that he would never have to face Maldonado again.
"He is unbelievable," New Mexico's head coach said. "What a unique player and an absolute warrior, and that's what I told him. I said, 'you are a warrior.' He dominates the game. He does it with class. He is loyal, which I know coach (Jeff) Linder had said. That's kind of rare in the world that we're living in today to stick through a coaching change and to stick it out.
"So, I've got so much respect for him. A unique, unique player who is shooting the ball better. But, yeah, I just told him I have so much respect. I don't like playing against him, but, wow, is he a terrific player and so much character and substance to him."
After a 70-56 road upset over the Lobos in mid-February, a night in which Maldonado netted a team-high 20 points, Linder praised the senior for his commitment and character.
"He's a pro," Wyoming's head coach said postgame. "That's why he will be a professional basketball player because he has the ability to show up every day and do his job."
Oklahoma City inked six undrafted free agents. Joining Maldonado in camp is Adam Flagler (Baylor), Justice Sueing (Ohio State), Tanner Groves (Oklahoma), Caleb McConnell (Rutgers) and KJ Williams (LSU).
Maldonado and the Thunder will take part in summer league play between July 3-17 in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.