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The Wine and Gold kept the summer rollout rolling on – introducing the squad’s young international man of mystery, Sergey Karasev, to the local media for the first time since selecting him with the 19th overall pick of the 2013 Draft.
The 19-year-old, who’s been on a whirlwind world tour since being tabbed by the Cavs in June, made his first visit to the Cleveland Clinic Courts before almost immediately bouncing back across the pond to train with the Russian National Team in preparation for the Euro Championships in Slovenia.
This summer, Karasev has spent almost as much time in the air as he has on the hardwood.
He flew 18 hours to attend the NBA Draft in New York, then flew back to Russia – via Frankfurt and Croatia – for the University Games. (He had 15 hours between landing and playing his first game in the Tournament, winning the opener by 20 points.) On this visit to Cleveland, he flew from Russia, back through New York. He leaves Cleveland at 6 p.m. and will travel to Detroit then Paris then to Barcelona – about 20 hours in the air. And he still has stops in Serbia and Italy lined up before the Euro Championships begin.
But Tuesday’s focus was on what he’ll be bringing to his new NBA hometown when he returns before Cavs Training Camp in late September.
“Now I’m part of Cleveland,” said the Russian youngster, who speaks English very well. “I’ll finish work with my team in Russia. We’re working (in Cleveland) on little deals on (the) contract and I think we’re going to sign it soon.”
Fresh off the World University Games in which Karasev led his Russian team to the Gold medal – averaging 19.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the process – the versatile swingman clarified that he can play two wing positions and do so with either hand.
“I think I can play both (small forward and two-guard),” asserted Karasev. “I think it depends on where coach puts me on the floor. I think, everybody knows that shooting is my best (part) of my game as well as my court vision, creating for teammates. I’ll bring a lot of assists to the team.”
In terms of his reported ambidexterity, Karasev stated that he only shoots left-handed, but does everything else – eating, etc. – with his right.
“Near the basket, I feel comfortable with both hands. It’s not a big problem for me to go penetrate with the right (and) that’s really good for me because it can really confuse defenders.”
Flanked by Cavaliers VP of Basketball Operations, David Griffin, the 6-7, 200-pounder admitted that he’ll need to add some weight and muscle to his frame at the NBA level.
“I know I need to work on my physical – this is the most important thing,” said Karasev. “I played in the Russian league and it’s a very tough league, a lot of athletic guys. I know I need (to add) a couple more pounds this year.”
Griffin expanded on the scouting process that led the Cavaliers to draft the lithe Russian swingman.
“One of the things that is just fantastic about (the Cavs organization) is how much ownership will invest in the process,” said Griffin. “We got to scout him basically at every step along the path of his development. We got to send multiple scouts to Europe to watch him play both with junior national team competition, with his pro club, and in All-Star in international events.”
Griffin continued: “To lead the Russian League in scoring at the age he did is unprecedented. We look at him as a kid with tremendous upside, certainly with a lot of room to grow and evolve. His skill-set really spoke to us. And the ambidexterity is a big plus, because it speaks to an ability to adapt during a game.”
Karasev (pronounced ‘ka-RAH-sev’) is the son of a coach – and not just any coach. His father, Vasily, was the starting point guard of the senior men's Russian national basketball team from 1993 to 2003, and he’ll be Sergey’s national team coach when he returns.
“That’s great that my father is coaching the national team,” said Sergey. “These last few years, we’ve grown up together. I try to help him, he tries to help me. It’s going to be very wonderful and I hope we qualify for the world championship and take medals. We’re going to work together.”
During the recent University Games in Kazan, Russia, Karasev’s offensive efficiency was extremely impressive. He shot 56 percent from the field, including 46 percent (20-of-44) from beyond-the-arc.
“We had some time to talk during dinner,” relayed David Griffin. “Sergey (said) doesn’t want to be known as a ‘shooter,’ he wants to be known as a ‘shot-maker.’ (He said): ‘Anybody can be a shooter.’”
Karasev has good taste in role models, too – listing Spurs two-guard Manu Ginobili as the NBA player he’d like to mold his game after. (“He’s like 35 years old and still in great physical (shape), great mind, has a great shot. I try to be like him.”)
The Russian sharpshooter comes to a Cavaliers team that’s now radically different than the one that finished the 2012-13 season in April. And at just 19, he’ll have time to work his way gradually into Mike Brown’s rotation. Griffin spoke to the squad’s expectations moving forward.
“I wouldn’t want to limit him in any way and I wouldn’t want to false raise expectations,” said Griffin. “Our expectation is that Sergey is going to learn Mike Brown’s system very quickly. He has a high IQ, we feel like that’ll be something that comes to him, and we’ll just go from there.”
And Karasev – who’ll be wearing uniform No. 10 with the Wine and Gold – is smart enough to know what’ll be expected of him by Cleveland’s new coach.
“Mike Brown, I know he’s a defensive coach, so I’m going to try to bring some weakside help, one-on-one defense; I’m going to play aggressive defense, work hard.”
Karasev has some international hoops to get through before returning to Cleveland for Camp. When he gets back, his NBA career will begin with a re-tooled team that’s ready for him.
“(Sergey) has a skill-set that that fits our team well and, at the same time, we’re now in a position, based on the other signings we’ve made, that we’re much deeper than we’ve ever been,” concluded Griffin. “I think there will be great competition, and we look forward to watching Sergey within that.”