Waiters selected fourth overall by Cleveland Cavaliers in NBA Draft

first_img Published on June 28, 2012 at 10:25 am Contact Chris: [email protected] | @chris_iseman NEWARK, N.J. – Dion Waiters’ heart felt like it was about to burst through his chest. When NBA commissioner David Stern stepped to the podium at 7:30 p.m. Thursday to begin the 2012 NBA draft, the moment started to sink in.A freshman season that saw him struggle so much he considered leaving Syracuse. The tough love from head coach Jim Boeheim that forced him to adjust to his role off the bench. A sophomore season where he embraced his new responsibility, becoming perhaps the best sixth man in college basketball.It all culminated on this night.Twenty-three minutes later, at 7:53 p.m., his heart returned to a seemingly normal pace when the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Waiters with the fourth overall pick of the draft.“I’m glad it’s over,” Waiters said. “I’m more relaxed.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSitting at a table in the players’ area, Waiters and his family jumped from their seats in one collective motion after the pick. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound guard made his way to the Prudential Center stage, strode across and shook Stern’s hand and flashed a smile that Orange fans saw so many times last season.Getting to that point was never easy.He showed up to college out of shape, and was indignant that he had to come off the bench. In high school, Waiters had always been the best on the floor. With the Orange, he was just one member of a long line of quality guards. He struggled to score six points per game, and once the season was over, thought about leaving Syracuse.Instead, he stayed.His mother, Monique Brown, told him she didn’t raise a quitter. He worked out three to four times per day. The Philadelphia native chiseled a body that would soon be NBA ready. Before then, though, he had to put the tumultuous freshman season behind him.“I just used it as motivation and came back with a brighter attitude, more of a team guy,” said Waiters, who was second on the team last year in scoring with 12.6 points per game. “I really didn’t care about myself. It was more about the team, and I think I helped us this year to get where we were.”He now needs that attitude, that motivation and that experience to help him elevate his game to another level.He’s going to a city, and a team, in desperate need of hope.Since LeBron James left two years ago, the Cavaliers have struggled. At one point a consistent contender in the Eastern Conference, the team went 21-45 last season.Waiters will join last year’s No. 1 overall pick and Duke product Kyrie Irving to form what could be a productive backcourt for years to come. They already have chemistry, having known each other for about six years.Sitting in the bowels of the Prudential Center about an hour after being drafted, Cavaliers cap on his head, Waiters waxed on about what it’ll take to win in Cleveland, a concept he learned in Syracuse.“We’ve got to put together a group of guys who’s willing to win, play with each other. I just can’t wait to play alongside Kyrie because I know he’s been here before,” Waiters said. “I’m just coming in and trying to do what I need to do for us to win.”Sporting a gray suit, light orange shirt and orange tie — both a homage to Syracuse — Waiters had a black smudge on his right shoulder that came when his mother’s eyeliner rubbed off on him during their celebratory hug.Brown has been there from the start, and if she didn’t instill in him not to be a quitter, not to leave Boeheim and Syracuse, there’s a chance he wouldn’t have been sitting in the Prudential Center Thursday night.At the same table she had been at all night, Brown was still at a loss for words close to two hours after her son’s name was called.Euphoria. Relief. Anxiousness and shock.At some point during the night, Brown felt each of those emotions right along with her son.“I’m excited, happy,” Brown said. “I was very surprised. I didn’t expect him to go that high.”Not many did.Cleveland had reportedly been interested in former Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal, an athletic 19-year-old with a shooting touch. When Washington drafted Beal with the third overall pick, Cleveland turned its attention to Waiters.The Cavaliers had never spoken to Waiters and never watched him work out. Under the advice of his agent, Rob Pelinka, Waiters cancelled all his workouts and interviews on June 8. Reports of him receiving a guarantee from a team swirled. Phoenix, Toronto and Portland were all mentioned as possibilities, but never Cleveland.The Cavaliers are getting a guard who sliced through defenses and attacked the basket to inject instant energy into the SU offense last season. He can drain the big shot from the outside, and brought the Carrier Dome fans to its feet with that stroke, albeit a work in progress.It took time, effort and determination to get better to arrive at the NBA. All of it paid off in a big way.“As far as his ability to score and his strength, he knows how to apply it,” said Jim Clibanoff, owner of the scouting service ClibHoops, before the draft. “He’s always been a man amongst boys.”That won’t be the case in the NBA, where he’ll need the attitude he acquired at Syracuse to help him adjust to the next level.For now, though, he can relax.He’s a professional basketball player, accomplishing his childhood dream. Soon enough, he’ll be en route to Ohio.With a new outlook on his basketball life. A new challenge. And a new chapter.“I’m blessed to be in this situation,” Waiters said. “And I can’t wait to get to Cleveland.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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