By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
MOORE — Three months ago Katie Jones was sitting in class at Moore High School waiting on graduation just like any other high school senior. At the time, she was looking forward to getting on with her future.
Jones’ future took a pleasant detour Thursday when she was selected to be part of the 2013-14 Thunder Girls dance team. She joins 19 other young women who will represent Oklahoma City’s NBA franchise inside Chesapeake Energy Arena and the community at large during the upcoming NBA season.
“I don’t even know how to react right now,” Jones said. “It’s still processing in my brain. I’m so excited to cheer for the best team in the whole nation this whole season. I can’t even put into words how excited I am.”
Jones wasn’t the only Moore native to make the team. Sarah Jackson and Lateshia Dockery also heard their names called.
“This was my first time trying out,” Jackson said. “I felt I had good chance because I went to classes and went to training. I was prepared to the best of my ability. I feel like I did everything I possibly could. And I had faith it was enough to make the team.”
The selection process began last week when the Thunder held open tryouts at the team’s training center in Edmond. From that group, 38 women reached Thursday’s final audition in front of a packed house at Riverwind Casino.
“The Thunder Girls serve as ambassadors for our team, both on and off the court,” said Paige Carter, who enters her third season as the dance team’s manager and choreographer. “We are excited to have a group of young women who not only are great dancers, but also can engage with our community of fans to form a positive connection with our team.”
The 38 competitors were whittled down to a final 20 after two hours of competition that consisted of three rounds: a choreographed jazz/hip-hop routine, a question-and-answer session and a solo dance.
“I tried to give myself the benefit of the doubt,” Jones said. “There are so many beautiful and so many talented girls. So I really was intimidated a little bit. But I went out there and did what I love and it paid off.”
Jackson had the same reaction.
“Never in a million years did I think I would ever be a Thunder girl,” Jackson said. “And the fact that I did, and I just achieved one of my dreams, I’m ecstatic. I can’t even believe it. I’m so happy. Honestly, I have been training for this for months now. And the fact I did the best I could and left it all out on the floor and I made it, it’s just a dream come true.”
Of the 20 women, 11 return from last year’s squad. That includes Dockery, who is entering her sixth season. She’s made the squad every year since the Thunder first arrived in Oklahoma City in 2008.
“I think every year it’s different,” Dockery said. “I’m really excited to start the new season. We have a bunch of new girls and I’m just excited about the talent. I think every year I try to push myself to get better and better. I get older every time and I know these young girls come in and are so full of energy and have a lot of talent. So I just try to step up my game and push myself.”
While Moore will be very well represented on the team, this will mark the first year the team doesn’t include any performers from Norman.
“To make it my first year is really exciting,” Jones said. “My mom was hysterical. She was balling. I honestly didn’t know if I was going to make it because there were so many good veterans and other girls who had tried out in previous years that didn’t make it all the way through. But I went out there and did what I did. I guess I impressed them.”
The regular season begins Oct. 31 and the Thunder first play at home Nov. 3 when the Phoenix Suns visit Oklahoma City. The dance team, however, will begin representing the franchise much sooner than that.
“I think it’s going to be breathtaking,” Jackson said. “I don’t have any other words. I think it’s going to take my breath away. I’m just going to be in the moment and live in the moment.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth firstname.lastname@example.org