We caught up w/ Sean Keeley, Creator of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, to talk about Dion Waiters and his time at Syracuse. Our exchange is below. Follow Sean on Twitter here, and buy his book too.
StepienRules: Why should Cavs fans be excited about Dion Waiters?
Sean Keeley: Jim Boeheim doesn’t throw around high praises too often. So when he says that Dion Waiters is the most NBA-ready guard he’s ever coached, that means something. Having watched Dion for two years, it’s impressive how quickly he caught up to the speed of the game and, in some cases, surpassed it. He’s a clutch transition offensive player and a great play-maker. I’ve seen some people say his defense is bad but that was freshman year stuff. He’s made great strides since then and became a great turnover creator. If nothing else, he’s going to be fast and fun to watch on the court.
StepienRules: Waiters said he matured as a man by coming off the bench in college during his introductory press conference in CLE. In what ways would you say he matured in his time with the Orange?
SK: Well you’re talking about a guy who basically told Boeheim to “go F himself” as a freshman and then almost transferred following the season. Rather than run from his issues, Waiters stuck it out, did the work, committed to the team and his coach and ended up putting together a Sixth Man of the Year season that saw him become the most electric player on the court anytime he was on it. There’s no way that Freshman Dion would have been okay sitting on the bench as a sophomore. He matured a lot quickly in that respect.
StepienRules: As far as NBA player comparisons for Waiters go, who / what do you think would be a best case scenario for him in the League? Who would be a worst case? Are the comparisons to Wade & Wesbrook warranted / fair?
SK: I never liked to see any kind of comparisons to elite All-Stars when a guy is just coming out of college. No one knows any of that stuff. To me the Wade comparison is more about how they look and how they play the game, not that Waiters is just as good. That’s not to say that Dion doesn’t have it in him to become a star, he does. But in the meantime let’s set the bar at the Jason Terry level for success. Worst case scenario is that he never grows as an all-around player and he’s out of the league in 4-5 years. He’s at least got the athletic talent to make it that far.
StepienRules: Why did he not start for Syracuse last season? Did the fact he didn’t start ever matter to you, or to Orange fans?
SK: Dion’s not starting was more tactical than anything. It was not because Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche were “better” than him. Boeheim used Waiters as a not-so-secret weapon. So when the other team’s starters started to come out, here comes Dion with all his energy and athleticism. After that, he played just as many minutes as Scoop and Triche and played in crunchtime just as often. I see a lot of people citing that Ohio State game as proof he doesn’t play in big games. Did those people watch that game? The refs were on such a foul-calling spree it’s amazing everyone didn’t foul out in the first half. The fact that he didn’t start never mattered to us and we find the whole “he never started!” complaint rather humorous. When the game was on the line, most SU fans would tell you they wanted the ball in Dion’s hands.
StepienRules: Are there any reasons for Cavs fans to be concerned about drafting Dion Waiters as high as the Cavaliers did?
SK: Admittedly, that’s a high spot for Dion. I honestly think that the whole “promise to be picked” by the Suns or Raptors was made up or inflated. I think Dion’s agent pulled a masterstroke in building hype and turning a guy who probably should have gone in the 7-10 range into a top 5 pick. It’s one of those things that none of us can really say whether or not it’s worth it. There are plenty of people who think it was a terrible pick and many more who think it was a steal. That’s the NBA Draft for you.
StepienRules: Dion seems pretty active on Twitter. How was it for fans interacting with him over that and other Social Mediums during his time at Syracuse?
SK: You have no idea. Dion goes on retweetathons after games so if you follow him, get ready to see a timeline full of people telling Dion how amazing he is and him retweeting it. That’s also funny because Dion’s catchphrase is “Humble & Hungry.” And last time I checked, tweeting 50 people saying how awesome you are didn’t fall under the “humble” category. I will say this…he’s very approachable on Twitter. If you ask for a retweet or response, you’ll probably get it. I didn’t see much of him on Facebook but I’m pretty sure he lives on Twitter, especially after games.
StepienRules: If I asked you for one thing Cavs fans might not know about Dion Waiters, you’d say?
SK: He’s a big mama’s boy. And actually, his mom is a big reason he stayed at Syracuse and didn’t transfer after his first season. She talked some sense into him and kept him on track. Worked out well for us and, hopefully, it’ll work out well for you guys as well. Oh and he’s good friends with rapper Meek Mill. He’s already worked Dion into the lyrics of one of his songs…