Philadelphia's Dion Waiters goes No. 4 in NBA draft

Posted: June 29, 2012

NEWARK, N.J. - Dion Waiters, the Syracuse sophomore guard from South Philadelphia, began his career as a frustrated reserve. But he completed a stunning turnaround by being selected as the No. 4 overall pick in Thursday's NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Waiters, who takes pride in being a cool, calm, and collected gunslinger, was an admitted nervous wreck when the proceedings began with commissioner David Stern's opening comments to the crowd at the Prudential Center.

"He said, 'Welcome to the NBA draft,' and my heart started beating 200 m.p.h., and that is when it really hit me," said Waiters, who played his last two high school seasons at Life Center in Burlington. "I'm glad it's over."

Actually, things are just beginning for a player whose attacking style has been compared to that of Miami Heat all-star Dwyane Wade.

Waiters will be paired in what certainly will be billed as one of the up-and-coming young backcourts in the NBA, teaming with this season's NBA rookie of the year, Kyrie Irving.

"I'm excited to play alongside my brother," he said of Irving. "I've known him for six or seven years, and we have been texting and talking forever."

Irving was the first person who greeted Waiters off the stage, giving an immediate welcome to his new backcourt mate.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Waiters stood out in this draft class not only because he was a reserve both years at Syracuse but also because he didn't work out for any NBA teams on the advice of his agent, Rob Pelinka.

"Anything he tells me, you can't question," Waiters said. "He's been in this game for a long time."

Waiters will be expected to do something in the NBA that he didn't do in college - start games.

This season, Waiters was named the Big East Conference sixth man of the year after averaging 12.6 points in 24.1 minutes. He paid his dues, averaging 6.6 points and 16.3 minutes as a freshman.

Now he is ready to start at the highest level.

"I played as a starter all my life until I got to Syracuse, and I think Syracuse helped me out a lot," Waiters said.

Over the last few days, Waiters was shooting up the mock draft boards and, with his customary confidence, wasn't shocked to be selected so high. But until his name was called, he wasn't taking anything for granted.

"You never know [what will happen], especially for a guy that has not worked out for anybody," he said. "The only thing you can do is go by what you hear."

And Waiters had been hearing nothing but positives both during his sophomore season and afterward.

Now he can't wait to get to Cleveland and play in front of the fans who are starved for the winning ways they enjoyed before LeBron James bolted for Miami two years ago.

"Just the fan base, the crowd, they come to every game, and they support the city, and it's a great city," Waiters said. "I was there my freshman year and played in a tournament there."

His return to Cleveland will be much different. His last time there, Waiters was a role player looking to find his niche. Now, his role has drastically changed. He's one of the stars.


Contact Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @sjnard.

 

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