Dance was always a big part of Sheyenne Stephens’ life but she never imagined herself being a part of a NBA dance team.
The Yukon native sat patiently and waited for her number to be called on Thursday evening at the Riverwind Casino in Norman. She had just gone through nearly a week of grueling Thunder Girl auditions.
Each girl trying out to be a Thunder Girl was given a number at the beginning of auditions. Stephens’ number was 30. Other numbers were being announced and she watched as numerous other girls were celebrating being a part of a NBA dance team.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the No. 30 was announced. Stephens had made the Thunder Girls dance team. Then the emotions began to flood.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Stephens said. “I immediately started crying and I ran out to hug everyone. I was shocked. It had been a stressful week with the auditions. I never thought I would make it because it was my first time to try out.”
The Thunder Girl tryouts began on June 24 and ended on June 29. The first part of the audition was the dance competitions. There were three levels of the dance audition with cuts being made after each level. Each girl who advanced through all three dance auditions had to learn three new dances. There were 32 finalists following the dance competitions.
Each finalist went through boot camp, so they could show the evaluators how they worked out and then they had the interviews at the Thunder Front Office before the final show on Thursday in Norman.
“It was pretty intense,” Stephens said. “Especially the interview at the Thunder office, it was just really nerve-racking walking into the building but once I was in and began the interview I felt more relaxed.”
Only 20 girls made the final Thunder Girl roster.
“It means a lot,” Stephens said. “It’s a dream come true, never dreamed of being on a NBA dance team.”
Stephens said she had wanted to become a Thunder Girl since she went to her first Thunder game several years ago.
“I just remember looking down at the Thunder Girls and being in awe,” Stephens said. “I thought to myself, ‘How awesome it would be to be able to do that some day.’”
She has been dancing since she was three-years-old and she did competitive dancing and danced in studios growing up. Stephens was a member of the Yukon High School pom squad and was a captain on the YHS pom squad as a senior. She graduated in 2013.
Following high school, Stephens wanted to focus on her studies and she stopped dancing for a number of years. She attended Oklahoma State University in her first year of college but she said she missed her family and she moved back home and began commuting to the University of Central Oklahoma.
Stephens is scheduled to graduate from UCO with a bachelor’s degree in biology at the end of this fall semester. She is planning on going to PA school following graduation and becoming a physician’s assistant.
When she made decision to pursue her dream of becoming a Thunder Girl, Stephens got back into the gym and began working out strenuously and changed her diet to eat healthier again. She began that process at the beginning of last summer, so she has been prepping herself for more than a year.
Stephens said she thought about trying out for the Thunder Girls last summer but didn’t feel like she was prepared well enough going into the auditions, so she decided to wait a year.
“I knew I had to get my body and my mind in shape,” Stephens said. “I did a lot of stretching every night to get my flexibility back.”
On top of going to school full-time and now being a Thunder Girl, Stephens works at the Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany as a Patient Activity Aid. She has worked at the hospital for a little more than a month.
“I absolutely love what I do at the hospital,” Stephens said. “Having the opportunity to work with those children is an amazing experience.”
Even though she will have to go through the audition process every summer, Stephens said she wants to be a part of the Thunder Girls’ family for as long as she can.
“I know it has only been a week, but I can already tell it is going to be an incredible experience,” Stephens said. “I definitely want to be a part of this team for as long as possible.”
Fellow Yukon natives Jaimie George and McKenzie Downey are also on the 20-person roster for the Thunder Girls this year. George is going into her fourth-straight year of being a part of the Thunder Girls and Downey is in her second year.
Stephens said she believes the Thunder basketball team is going to have a successful season.
“I think the season is going to be great,” Stephens said. “They have made a lot of great moves in the offseason and I think it is going to be a lot of fun to see how it plays out.”