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This week, Cavs.com has been focused on DG the PG – young point guard Darius Garland, who posted a rock-solid rookie season, staring 59 games – 54 more than he had in his entire college career – leading the Wine & Gold in assists and on pace to break the team’s rookie three-point shooting mark set last year by Collin Sexton.
The soft-spoken 19-year-old had an eye-opening experience in his freshman season. Here’s what he, his teammates and coaches – both current and former – had to say about the sharpshooter from Vandy’s first year …
Coach J.B. Bickerstaff on what the staff will be expecting of him moving forward …
“What we've been working with Darius on is obviously the pick-and-roll game. Darius has the ability to make all the passes, make the reads in pick-and-roll that position and you're gonna play a ton of pick-and-roll.
”The big part for him is being able to do both. He has the ability to score, he can shoot it from range, he's got floaters, he's got all the finishes, you know, but when you're playing the pick-and-roll, being able to do both depending on what the defense gives you.
”And I think that's kind of one of those steps we were taking.
”He and I have had these conversations about being the coach on the floor – being able to call plays to get guys that have gotten going, being able to call plays to slow the game down if we need to. All of those things. As a 19-year-old, you can see that he has it.
”And so I think it's just a matter of us helping him with that. And then for him growing into that position, which I think he's capable of, which the great point guards do. And I think he's got an opportunity to be one of those.”
Darius Garland on the transition from three levels in three seasons …
”I don’t remember exactly how many games I lost in four years of high school, but I can count on both my hands for sure.
“The pro game has been a big adjustment for me. I've never lost games like this in my entire life, really. But you take lumps sometimes. It's a growing process. You deal with it and you try to get better every day.”
Kevin Love on how the season being shortened affected Garland’s growth …
“Obviously, being a competitor it’s really tough to wrap my mind around, especially being a veteran this league.
”And I look at it from really all sides and a guy like Darius Garland, who only played four games in college, comes into the league and only gets, you know, so many games in, a little bit over 60 games in, and doesn't really get to push through that real rookie wall get to play against all the top point guards in the league, face some of the teams again and again and really figure it out.
”To take that next step, you have to go through the league.”
Darius Garland on the pre-Draft workout in California that sealed him as the 5th overall pick last summer…
”I think I shot the ball really well in the private workout and I think that’s what caught Coach (Beilein)’s eye. There was a little bit of pressure, because the whole (Cavaliers) staff came. And that really meant a lot to me, that they were really interested.
”I knew I had to come put on a show for them.”
Collin Sexton on how his offseason work will improve the dynamics of the starting backcourt …
“I'm just continuing to work on catch and shoots, continuing to work with different pin-downs. So, whenever me and Darius are in the game together, it's going to be like second nature.”
Darius Garland recalling the high school matchup between his squad and Collin Sexton’s …
”I played against him in high school. He won the game, but it was a bad game. We shot, like, 38 percent from the field and they only won by four.
”Statistically, I think Collin shot, like, 20 free throws. He was a senior that year, so they gave him a lot of leeway. He was just starting to get all the hype and all the pub.
”He really killed us.”
Former coach John Beilein on Garland’s 21-point performance against the Bucks, going 8-for-14 from the floor …
“He was not hesitating when he was open to shoot it, which was really good.
He’s starting to get a command for the offense, he’s starting to take some charge of some things and then he’s playing against some really good guards every minute, so he’s improving there. He just looked like he felt really sure of himself, very confident on the floor.”
Darius Garland after being drafted by the Cavs on getting injured just five games into his college career …
”It was really challenging for me. That was the first time I had been away from the game that I really love, so it was really hard. But everyone faces adversity, I got over the whole thing, and that's all in the past.
”Now I’m ready to get going in Cleveland.”
Kevin Love wanting his point guard to be more aggressive but understanding the growing pains …
“He had a couple looks from three that he should have taken, but I think that he’s now shooting over big-time length, after not really doing that since really, probably … ever.
”In the big circuits that he plays in, he’s got length over him, all the time – and that’s a thing he is going to continue to learn to do, and he works at it. It will come to him slowly. We know who he is. He’s a rookie and his game is going to mature every day, but right now a lot of this stuff is brand new to him.”
Darius Garland on growing up with a father who played in the NBA …
”It helps a lot, for sure, having a dad in the NBA. He's been through everything, so I just want to follow in his footsteps. He's teaching me things that he wishes he could have done when he was in the league. So, he's just trying to just show me the ropes.
”He can still beat me at H.O.R.S.E., but in one-on-one – it's over.”