After an outstanding sophomore season at Syracuse that had many analysts talking about him as one of the best guards in the country, Dion Waiters decided the time was right to test his talents and make the jump to the NBA. The Philly native was a beast as a sixth man, averaging 12.6 points on nearly 48 percent shooting to help lead the Orange to the Elite 8 last season. After his stock steadily rose during the draft process, Cleveland took him higher than anyone expected. He kept a diary with us throughout the weeks leading up to the NBA Draft, and plans to check in with us often throughout this upcoming season to talk about life as a rookie, the NBA grind, and his favorite things to do off the court…
*** *** ***
Playing in the Rising Stars Challenge was awesome. Just something fun to be a part of. It was great. I enjoyed myself.
The city is awesome. It was my first time in Houston and I look forward to coming back. We went bowling when we first got there, me and my family. We had some fun, some competition. Going at each other, having fun. I’m one of the best bowlers in the family. I’m top two or top three. I don’t want to say number one, but there are a couple of family members who can bowl a little bit. We bowl a lot, although we haven’t lately because of the games. We bowl, play pool a lot.
Kyrie Irving dropping Brandon Knight during the game was great, though. That’s what we come to see. Competition, going at it, back and forth. We live at that. But I wasn’t surprised when Kyrie dropped him. When you play with fire you get burnt. Kyrie does have one of the nicest handles in the league. I don’t go for none of that in practice though. He’ll tell you. We’re only going to get better together. We’re young. We’re going to continue to build off each other and find out where each other like the ball in certain spots, certain areas, moving without the ball. When the ball is not in my hands, just learning how to play off of him, and vice versa.
We had four guys in the Rising Stars game, and in two years in Cleveland: playoffs atmosphere. We got it. It’s just we gotta learn how to close out and continue to keep winning, continue to build trust in one another. This is new to everybody, everybody’s first time playing so we are getting close.
I think Faried was going super hard in the Rising Stars game. He goes hard all the time. That’s just him. He has one motor. I was trying to pick it up, but everybody else wasn’t really trying to go that hard. That’s what I do. I love going at you because that brings the best out of me. If you come at me, I’m coming right back regardless of the situation. That’s how you get better though. You can feed off that. You give the crowd something to see, something to watch.
Since I left school, I’ve been back to Syracuse a couple of times. I got up there for a day during All-Star Weekend. It’s just always great to go up there, see the campus, see the students, my coach, coach Hop (Mike Hopkins). I had a great talk with him. I got to see my teammates. It was great just seeing them. I wish I could’ve stayed longer than what I did, but I’ll see the guys in the summer. I stay in touch with them. After the games, I’ll text the guys, try to motivate them and tell them to just keep working hard, stay positive. I just try to encourage them. I miss everything about Syracuse. The coaches. The people. The fans. It’s just a great family atmosphere. I was laid back at school. Sometimes I would hang out with the students outside of the basketball team, just chilling.
There’s a big difference in the intensity on the court from the NBA to college. The speed, you’re going against somebody quicker every night. Guys are really, really good. It’s the NBA: No Boys Allowed.
I still got the chance to watch the main All-Star Game on Sunday. Alicia Keys did a good job at the halftime performance. It was cool. If it was up to me, I’d want BeyoncÃ© performing there. I would say BeyoncÃ© or somebody from my hood like Meek Mill – a young guy who came from nothing like myself and is just doing his thing right now. I’d like to see somebody like that.