Growing Up ... Darius Garland

Growing Up ... Darius Garland

Cavs Precocious Point Man Looks Back on His Early Hoops Career

by Joe Gabriele (@CavsJoeG)
2/11/20 | Cavs.com

The Cavaliers young guard trio of Collin Sexton, Kevin Porter Jr. and Darius Garland is a group of tough, skilled, dynamic athletes. It’s also a group of tough, skilled, dynamic athletes that can barely grow facial hair.

Garland, the 5th overall pick in this past June’s Draft, just celebrated his birthday at the end of last month and is still almost a year away from legally ordering a drink. And he’s not even the youngest member of the group.

After playing just five college contests at Vanderbilt, the smooth-shooting point guard is learning on the job with the Wine and Gold. He got an advanced course on NBA life, growing up as the son of an NBA player – Winston Garland – who played for six teams over a seven-season career.

The younger Garland won four straight Tennessee high school state championships and was the state’s Mr. Basketball in three of those seasons. When the Cavaliers contingent watched Garland’s jaw-dropping private workout in Los Angeles, despite his scant college experience, they were convinced to make him their first pick.

He’s been very good during his rookie season in Cleveland, leading his rookie class with 32 games canning at least one three-pointer and currently sitting four triples shy of becoming just the second Cavs rookie in franchise history to hit 100 three-pointers in a single season.

Cavs.com sat down with the soft-spoken young gun to talk about his early days in Tennessee, his love for the game of baseball, his basketball battles against his dad and, of course, his first dunk in today’s installment of Growing Up …

Darius Garland was named Tennessee's Mr. Basketball three times during his four-year high school career.
Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

I grew up in …. Indiana, but we moved to Tennessee right before I got into seventh grade.

My dad played … in the league, so I always had a ball in my hands growing up as a young boy.

I played basketball … all my life, but my first actual real game – like refs and stuff – was in second grade.

And in third grade … I was already playing up against sixth graders.

My mother isn’t into … sports or anything like that. She’s just a beautiful young lady.

My older brother played … baseball in college. He was a pitcher.

Baseball is my … first love, though. I was a shortstop and pitcher. I was playing AAU basketball and then AAU baseball – but baseball started interfering in the summertime. So, I just stuck with basketball.

I wanted to pick baseball … back up in high school, but by then, I started getting really good at basketball. I was going to pick it back up, like, my freshman year high school. But my dad was like: Just stay with basketball.

My dad had a couple … tall tales from his playing days. Actually, he has a lot!

He talks a lot about … Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond, those guys. And Hakeem (Olajuwon) was one of his guys. He has a lot of stories about him.

When I was a kid … we went to a couple of All-Star games – so I actually got to meet a lot of those guys.

My dad and I started going at it … I'd say when I got to fourth grade. His knees started getting bad, so I'd go after him -- running him in circles so he'd get tired. That was my secret weapon right there.

He can still beat me at H.O.R.S.E., but … in one-on-one – it's over.

Back then … he'd let me get to 10 if we were going to 12, but then he'd start posting me up. So, he was pretty competitive.

"My dad and I started going at it, I'd say when I got to fourth grade. His knees started getting bad, so I'd go after him -- running him in circles so he'd get tired. That was my secret weapon right there."

Cavaliers guard Darius Garland

My brother is … competitive too. He would just kill me back then, right off the bat. But that stopped early too.

My two greatest … coaches coming up were my high school coach, Hubie Smith, and my college coach, Bryce Drew.

Coach Smith really gave me … the keys to high school success. I started as a freshman and he just really gave me the keys to his team and just told me: Take care of the ball and play my game. So, I really just give it all back to him.

And even though I only played … five games at Vanderbilt, Coach Drew really meant a lot to me. He sat at the Draft table with me, and that meant a lot to both of us.

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.

I remember playing against … Collin Sexton’s team back in high school.

I was a sophomore and he was … a junior. They won by like two, but we shot like only 36 percent from the field. It was our first game in a big tournament.

My high school had a bunch … of good athletes, but most of our best athletes were football players, like Jalen Ramsey.

We didn’t have a ton of … great basketball players, but we competed in every tournament, every game. I played good in that game against Collin. It was a good battle. A lot of people came and watched, so it was fun.

Of course I remember … first dunk – it came when I was going into my freshman year, in the summertime.

It was just … after a workout and we were all just joking around. So, I just threw a lob to myself and I dunked it. And everybody was going: "Dunk it again!" So, I just kept trying, but I couldn't get it back after that.

So I came back … the next day and actually started dunking pretty easily. And it was all over after that!