NEWARK — Dion Waiters didn’t have to wait long until he heard his name called.
With the fourth pick of the NBA draft, Waiters was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Waiters was in the green room alongside his father, mother and girlfriend.
“Oh my god, oh my god!” his mother kept saying.
Excitement turned into raw emotion, and mother Waiters wept as she embraced her son.
Waiters pointed to a blemish on his otherwise dapper suit.
“She even got a little eyeliner on me,” Waiters said with a smile. “Messed my suit up.”
It was the end of a wild 24 hours for Waiters.
“When David Stern said, ‘Welcome to the NBA Draft,” my heart started beating at 200 miles per hour,” Waiters said. “I was way more nervous than my first game at Syracuse. I’m glad it’s over.”
Even while Waiters plays in the bright lights of the NBA, he will always have Syracuse Orange in him. Waiters pulled his orange tinted tie to show the media contingent on hand.
“This is Syracuse all day long,” Waiters said. “If it wasn’t for Syracuse, I wouldn’t be here.”
Waiters was especially grateful to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, even though at this time last year, that may not have been the case.
“Coach Boeheim, he gave me tough love,” Waiters said. “He turned me into the man I am today just by giving me tough love, and to know you have to work hard, and everything is not given.”
It wasn’t a lesson that Waiters took to heart right away. In fact, Waiters seriously thought about transferring after his freshman year.
His mother wouldn’t allow it.
“I had a lot of talks with my mother,” Waiters said. “She told me she didn’t raise no quitter. Hearing that from your mom, you have to do something about it.”
Waiters spent last summer getting into elite basketball shape, curbing his diet and spending as many as four sessions a day in the gym. He sculpted his 6-foot-4 frame and the results were tangible.
In his final season at SU, Waiters averaged 12.6 points despite never starting a game, and was named Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year.
There will be plenty of challenges ahead for Waiters. In Cleveland, Waiters will team with NBA Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving to form a dynamic backcourt.
“I’ve known Kyrie for a long time now,” Waiters said. “He told me, ‘Welcome to Cleveland’ when I walked off the stage. That meant a lot to me.”