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 John Flynn

It’s Over: Steve Nash’s Career Ends Without A Championship

Steve Nash is done. As a result of ongoing back issues, Nash will have to miss the 2014-2015 season. For this 40-year-old, a missed season due to injury likely means the end of his illustrious career. A depressing hypothetical has become an unthinkable reality. One of the most exciting, whimsical and creative players of our […]

Sports Joseph Milord

10 Reasons Why You’d Be Crazy To Miss El Clasico This Weekend

It’s here. What is by far the most anticipated date on the (European) footballing calendar is upon us and it, once again, pits Real Madrid against Barcelona in El Clasico. Anytime the two Spanish giants meet, there’s cause for major hype. Saturday’s matchup between the pair of famous clubs, though, carries a particularly higher amount […]

Sports Julian Sonny

Porn Star Lisa Ann Is Without A Doubt Banging A Notre Dame Freshman

Yesterday, we reported legendary 42-year-old porn actress Lisa Ann was dating Justin Brent, a freshman Notre Dame receiver. The two were spotted at a Knicks preseason game where TMZ reported they were busy getting cozy all night. Further reports also suggest she’s the one who bagged him. Just two days later, we can all but confirm he’s […]

Sports Joseph Milord

This Soccer Player Just Scored One Of The Best Goals Of All Time (Video)

You’ve literally never seen anything like it. With one moment of insane brilliance, Tottenham winger Erik Lamela turned a seemingly uninteresting Europa League match into the most talked about event on Twitter yesterday. During the game against Asteras Tripoli, Lamela applied the Rabona skill (looping one’s stronger foot around the weaker to strike a ball in […]

Sports Julian Sonny

One Direction Proves They’re Bigger NFL Bandwagon Fans Than Drake

Take some notes, Drake. There’s a new group of younger, faster, stronger bandwagon fans poised to take America by storm. One Direction just announced their 2015 tour, which stretches over 15 NFL stadiums, and the band took these unique promo shots to get US fans excited. .@onedirection fans the wait is FINALLY over, Aug 2nd […]

Also On Elite

Sports

Eagles Fan Lives Up To Reputation By Stealing Veteran’s Prosthetic Leg

On a night which seemed the Eagles Faithful were determined to put their worst foot forward, one fan was accused of stealing one from a Vietnam War veteran. The alleged victim, Sonny Forriest, Jr., who performs as a musician on game days outside of Lincoln Financial Field, told Philadelphia’s local ABC affiliate: She jumped in […]

World

Somehow Kim Jong-un Has Fractured Both Of His Ankles

Reports that Kim Jong-un is experiencing health problems have sparked rumors that the North Korean dictator is gravely ill or simply eating too much. But now it has been confirmed that Jong-un’s limp and lack of public appearances as of late are due to ankle surgery he underwent in the middle of September. According to […]