Growing Up ... Dion Waiters

Cavs sophomore shooting guard Dion Waiters isn’t afraid to admit that he wears his emotions on his sleeve. He plays will a true passion, and that’s what Cavalier fans love about the 21-year-old.

After being drafted No. 4 overall in 2012, Waiters hit the ground running in Cleveland. As a rookie, he played in 61 games, starting 48, and averaged 14.7 points, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals per contest. Among first-year players, he ranked second in points per game, fourth in assists and fourth in steals – numbers good enough to land him on the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team and get him an invite to the U.S. National Team’s mini-camp in Vegas.

This year, Dion has started all five games and has averaged 11.8 ppg in the young season. And on Friday night, Waiters returns to his old stomping grounds in the City of Brotherly Love.

In today’s installment of Growing Up, the fiery guard describes his early days in South Philly – from the playgrounds to the football fields to Coach Jim Boeheim’s watch at Syracuse ….

I guess I come from … an athletic family. My father played football and all that type of stuff. He said I get my athleticism from him.

I’ve never seen … him play, but he’ll tell me: “I was the best; ask anybody around!”

I have an older brother … who was better than me at basketball growing up. But I was better at football.

I played multiple sports … coming up. Baseball, basketball, football. Everything.

Football is still … my favorite sport. I LOVE football.

When I was back in school playing football … my mom got shot, so I had to miss two or three weeks while I was taking care of her. Then I came back and I had gotten my spot taken because I wasn’t there. So I had to work to get it back.

That took about … two practices, and I got my spot back.

My mom is good now … everything is good with her now. She was just young and in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Eventually, she made me stop … playing football because she didn’t want me to get hurt.

I played a little … quarterback, running back, defensive end, wide receiver and kicker.

I can really … kick the ball. Seriously, I can really kick it! Fifty yards, easy.

Growing up, my favorite … basketball player was Allen Iverson. He’s my favorite player of all time. He’s still my favorite player.

I wore the … headband, I wore the sleeve, I wore the finger thing with “3” on it. All the kids in Philly loved him!

I just loved A.I.’s … attitude. He was himself, no matter what. People want you to be politically correct and sometimes you can’t just be yourself nowadays. I’m thankful for him for opening the door and giving a young guy like me an opportunity.

I was glued … to the TV. If Iverson was playing, I was watching.

At the age of … 12, I said I was going to play in the NBA.

I was committed to … playing at Syracuse in eighth grade. I don’t why, I can’t explain it. I didn’t even watch college basketball! I didn’t even know Syracuse had won the 2002 National Championship!

I didn’t really smile … or anything on the floor as a kid. But nobody knows what you go through off the court. Nobody knows your life off the court. And I don’t know how to hide my emotions.

I’m still like that … but I’m trying to get better. I’m human like everybody else; I’m not perfect. I have flaws, but that’s why it’s called life.

My best coach growing up … has to be Coach Boeheim.

Coach Boeheim was … hard on me, but at the end of the day, he let me do me.

I really appreciate … the way he coached me and the way he was tough on me. But first and foremost, he’s a loyal guy. That’s why I didn’t start both years, because there was a guy there before me.

Players respect … loyalty. I respect loyalty.

Coach Boeheim … is stubborn and I’m stubborn. But now it’s nothing but love when we see each other. His wife says he gets emotional, but he won’t show that to anybody.

I grew up playing … out on the playgrounds in Philly. But once I started getting ranked in high school – top 20, top 10 – I stopped playing outside. Around 11th grade, I stopped playing because I found out how bad it is on the knees.

I’d still go over … to the park to watch the games, but the guy would get on the mic and say, “Yeah, Dion – he got big-time on us.” But there was more at stake that they didn’t know about.

I stopped playing outside … but guys knew who I was because I was killing it everywhere I played in Philly. If I didn’t score 35, I had a bad game when I was growing up.

I definitely remember … my first dunk! It was in seventh grade and it was an and-1.

I almost didn’t know … that I did it. Even I was surprised! I just jumped and … BOOM! I hit the ground and everybody was going crazy!

The very next play … a kid came back and crossed me over after my and-1 because I dunked on him. He crossed me and the crowd went nuts. It was a wild sequence! I came back and I crossed him and scored on another and-1.

That game was in … Delaware, and during the game our car got broken into. So we had to drive back an hour-and-a-half with a trash bag over the window. It was freezing! That was a crazy day, boy.