From College 6th Man To An NBA Starter

From College 6th Man To An NBA Starter
Sports
Like Us On Facebook
Like Us On Facebook

As the 2011-2012 college basketball season tipped off, Dion Waiters found himself on the Syracuse University bench. Still glad to be in his pumpkin-orange warm-ups, Waiters was still on the losing end for one of the highly coveted starting spots.

At the time, Jim Boeheim’s team was dealing with a problem other programs would be happy to face: a surplus of over-qualified players. With a solid core group of starters, the anxious Waiters would have to wait for his time to shine.   Little did he know, he would attract all the attention he needed as the team’s 6th man.

Coaches recognized his ability to add a spark to the Syracuse offense, which at times sputtered in producing any sort of rhythm, so they kept him in his usual off-the-bench role. The strategic move paid off, as Waiters tore apart opposing Big East defenses, averaging 12.6 points per game, 2.5 assists per game, and 2.3 rebounds per game.

Such consistent figures are rarely expected of bench players, so his contribution became vital in the later end of games. As the bench thinned due to injury and academic ineligibility, Waiters understanding of the offense thickened.

He developed a knack for knocking down big shots. Coupled with Boeheim’s team-first mentality, ‘Cuse cruised through the regular season, finishing with a 34-3 record.

The loss of big-man Fab Melo (yes, he was academically ineligible)  for the NCAA tournament left a gaping hole in the Orangemen’s overall plan of action. They had to atone for this lack of offensive attack with a more athletic approach, a strategy in which Dion could be of great help. Despite a long run to the NCAA Elite Eight, the absence of a 7-foot presence proved too tall a task for Syracuse.

But as they watched the clock hit 0:00 on their season, Waiters could still take pride in the fact that he had left as much of an impact on the season as anyone with the same opportunities could possibly have.  The Cleveland Cavaliers thought so too, taking him as the 4th overall pick in the 1st Round of the 2012 NBA Draft.

The once 6th man shooting guard had climbed all the way up the draft ladder to #4, drawing comparisons to NBA Champion and past league scoring leader Dwayne Wade in the process. His tremendous potential had served as a springboard for draft standing, and he landed on a Cavs team desperate for a complimentary addition to their star point guard, Kyrie Irving.

What’s left now is to see how Waiters does with the NBA maturity process. Players with high upsides at a young age have a tendency to allow inflated egos to diminish scoring output. Longevity in the league is determined by the ability to adapt.

Whether it’s developing a playing style in accordance to the pace of play or jumping off your high horse before you fall flat on your face, the league’s best always adapt to the obstacles the NBA poses for anyone trying to make a name for themselves.

With overall talent at its all-time high, you don’t see many self-absorbed thirty-year-olds dropping 25 points per game. It’s because they get over themselves and start playing fundamental basketball. Unselfish, team-first basketball.

That team-first mentality that Boeheim instilled in Waiters will be something to watch for as the season progresses. Fortunately, we have yet to see any shade of ill-will from Dion towards his teammates. Even after his incredible performance against the Los Angeles Clippers, where Dion dropped 28 points (7-10 from three point land), there was an aura of humbleness radiating from the game’s leading scorer.

“He’s more ready for the NBA than any guard I’ve ever had,” Jim Boeheim raved back in June. “Nobody will be able to guard him one on one unless their last name is Westbrook. He’ll go by anyone he faces.” Although unseen as to whether Dion will go by anyone, such high remarks from arguably the most consistent college coach in NCAA history cannot be taken lightly.

It seems like he’s had no trouble at all adjusting to this new atmosphere and the pressures that come with it. The other day against Atlanta, his three with only a few ticks left was an airball… that was promptly put home as time expired, crediting Dion with the game-winning pass.

With balanced team play and a few more fortuitous bounces, it’s not too early to start throwing him in the mix for NBA Rookie of the Year. And even if Waiters’ contribution as a starter slows, Cleveland most definitely knows there is always the option of bringing him off the bench.

Rob Dick | Elite. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Share Tweet
React
Like Us On Facebook
Like Us On Facebook

Rob Dick

Rob Dick is an avid New England fan born and raised in the small town of Ipswich, Mass, just 30 minutes north of Boston. While specializing in the realm of sport, Rob also dabbles in the financial world, and considers himself as serviceable as a scientific calculator. His time at Syracuse has opened his eyes to a world far more diverse than the one he knew growing up, something that often inspires his unique writing angles. While not the sturdiest of men at 5’10’’ and a buck-fifty (150lbs), you’d be better off throwing punches than engaging in a verbal battle with this crafty masshole.

More In Sports

Sports Julian Sonny

If WWE Raw Were A Sitcom, This Would Be The Perfect Intro (Video)

We already know that professional wrestling is the greatest soap opera on television, but what if matches actually had the cheesy sitcom intros? The WWE did a brilliant job of creating one for Monday Night Raw and it’s surprisingly perfect. With John Cena and AJ Lee as stars, this would probably be a show worth […]

Sports Marco Cerino

Richard Sherman And Patrick Peterson Wage War Over Cornerback Supremacy

This past weekend, the Arizona Cardinals made cornerback Patrick Peterson the highest-paid NFL player of his position. The five-year, $70 million extension barely eclipsed the annual money given to divisional rival Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks. These two have strong careers and are perhaps the best corners in the league — and they know it. […]

Sports Julian Sonny

TBT: When Going Across The Middle In The NFL Was Suicide (Video)

Being a wide receiver in the National Football League during the 90s required only one thing: balls of steel. Sure, strong hands, precise route running and a big physical body helped, but when it came to crossing over the middle, you could expect a big collision every single time. Rule changes have since protected offensive players […]

Also On Elite

Life

The Differences Between Summer And Winter In New York

There are upsides and downsides (fine, mostly downsides) to both winter and summer in The Big Apple. Spring and fall are times of limbo; they aren’t too extreme and represent the narrow window of time that makes our city lives much more pleasant and convenient. From being able to indulge in long spring walks to crisp […]

Sports

Listen To Buenos Aires Explode As Argentina Advances To The World Cup Final

The city of Buenos Aires was rocking yesterday, and rightfully so. After years of drastic failures at a tournament for which they were predicted as one of the favorites, Argentina finally made it to the World Cup Final again, the first trip to the showpiece event for the storied nation since 1990. The team did […]

Technology

The Future Of Safe Sex: New Condom In Australia Is Covered With An HIV-Killing Lubricant

The world’s second biggest condom maker, Australian-based Ansell, has teamed up with biotech firm Starpharma to create a condom that actually kills HIV, herpes and other sexually transmitted viruses. Starpharma developed an antiviral compound called VivaGel that has been proven to inactivate 99.9 percent of these infections, and Ansell has come up with a range of condom […]

Women

These Powerful Illustrations Let Everyone Know Who Controls Women’s Bodies (Photos)

The Hobby Lobby case, which determined that corporations don’t have to pay for birth control, has sparked lots of discussion over who has control over a woman’s body. Is it the government? Is it the woman? Is it Jesus? It’s Jesus. Just kidding. It’s not Jesus. Brazilian graphic designer Carol Rossetti posted some beautiful, colorful […]